Sterilizing Medical Equipment - How and When?SMB Blog

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When one conducts an invasive procedure there is a contact between the device and patient's mucous membranes and sterile tissue. It is imperative that sterilization of surgical instruments and disinfection of medical devices must be done to prevent the spread of pathogenic microbes resulting in potential infection.


When should you clean the devices?

Patient-Care Devices

In order to control quality, majority of the hospitals disinfect and sterilize patient-care devices in a central processing department. These devices are sterilized by a sterile-processing technician or in a re-processing centre if the facility is large.

The ideal practice is to pre-clean patient-care devices with either water and detergent, or an enzymatic cleaner and then proceed onto high-level disinfection or sterilization.

The reason one recommends the devices to be pre-cleaned is because it helps in the removal of visible organic residues like blood and tissue and prevents contaminants to stick on to devices rendering the sterilization less effective.

Environmental Surfaces

Any surface or medical device that has a potential exposure to a contaminant needs to be cleaned. This contamination can either be through closeness or direct spilling and dripping on it.

For instance, in a pathology lab if a particular sample tests positive for an infectious illness, anything that possibly came in contact with that test will require it to be disinfected. If this is avoided it could lead to the spread of the infectious disease or even cross-contaminate other test results.

These environmental surfaces and non- critical devices need to be cleaned in between uses. Nurses, caregivers and lab technicians take responsibility of the low-level disinfection of the patient care devices used by them and environmental surfaces they come in contact with. Even non-critical devices are cleaned between uses. 


How does one sterilize medical equipment?

A few processes need to be followed in order to rid medical equipment of germs. The steps are as follows:

- Cleaning:  Before high level sterilization or any form of disinfection the surfaces of the medical equipment need to be cleaned using detergent and water.

- Disinfection: Post cleaning one needs to get rid of the non-spore forming bacteria using liquid chemicals.

- Sterilization: After cleaning and disinfecting, several approaches of sterilization can be used on surgical instruments to kill microorganisms and eradicate transmissible agents that cause diseases.

How clean a device should be depends on the environment it is in, what the device is being used for or will be used for and the materials the device is made of – these decide what level of sanitation is required. As discussed before disinfection and sterilization, all devices need to be cleaned.

Sterilization for Critical Care Devices

Critical care devices are those that come into contact with sterile body tissues and fluids like the cardio-vascular system or internal organs. Examples of Critical Care Devices include implants, surgical equipment and catheters.

The most common way to sterilize these medical devices is to steam them in extreme heat, however there is a low heat alternative which involves the usage of chemical sterilant for plastic devices. This is used to destroy all the bacteria and germs present.

When you purchase these devices, they are sterile, and to prevent the patient from pathogen exposure they need to be sterilized before each use.

High-Level Disinfectant for semi-critical devices

Semi-critical devices are those that have exposure to mucous membranes like the nose, esophagus, pharynx, etc., or broken skin. This category of devices includes endoscopes, anesthetic circuits etc.

High-Level Disinfectant destroys all living organisms with the exception of high levels of bacterial spores. High-level disinfection is typically performed using chemical disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide, Glutaraldehyde or any other chemicals approved by the FDA. After performing high-level disinfection these devices need to be rinsed using sterile water to get rid of the chemicals.

Due consideration must be given to dwell time which is the amount of time the device can be exposed to the chemical, to kill the germs – the dwell time differs from chemical to chemical and is listed on the container.

Intermediate/Low-Level Disinfectant for Non-Critical Devices

The devices in this category come into contact with intact skin and are at a lower risk to transmit germs. Non-critical devices are split into two categories: patient care items such as stethoscope, blood pressure cuffs or Intra Venous poles, and environmental surfaces such as bedrails, laboratory stuff, computers etc.

These devices need to be cleaned if visibly dirtied (spillage of blood, bodily fluids etc.) or disinfected using a low-level disinfectant when it comes in contact with a patient.

You will find most of these disinfectants and cleansing materials at Smart Medical Buyer. They have a variety of sterilant and disinfectants for generic use as well as device specific such as Dialyser Disinfectants, hospital hand sanitizer etc. Smart Medical Buyer deals exclusively with medical supplies and sources directly from the manufacturers ensuring the right price and authenticity.