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Importance Of Sterilizing Medical Equipment

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Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Sanitizing

Typically, sanitizing has two parts; cleaning and disinfecting, but with medical equipment, a third step is crucial - Sterilization.

Cleaning removes dirt, dust, grime, or other debris from a surface while disinfecting involves killing germs and bacteria on a surface. Dirt and grime create a film across the surface that breeds and protects germs and bacteria. Without cleaning the surface first, disinfecting will be significantly less effective. However, because soap also has disinfecting elements in it, using soap can help make later sanitization steps more effective. Both processes must occur for equipment to be safe to use.

Benefits of Sterilizing Medical Equipment

In invasive procedures, such as surgery, there’s contact between a patient's mucous membranes or sterile tissue and a surgical instrument or medical device. A significant risk of these procedures is introducing pathogenic microbes, potentially resulting in infection. Some benefits of sterilizing medical equipment include:

●     It eliminates pus, blood, foreign particles and dirt left behind that could lead to dangerous complications for the next patient requiring surgery where the medical practitioner uses the instrument.

●     It decreases bio-burden -- the number of non-sterilized bacteria living on a surface.

●     It prevents the corrosion of expensive and delicate tools.

●     It removes the breeding ground for the surviving germs.

●     Sterilization and disinfection, when properly used, can ensure the safe use of non-invasive and invasive medical devices.

Methods for Sterilizing Medical Equipment

Choosing the best sterilization method is extremely important when it comes to medical equipment. At best, using an inappropriate or insufficient method of sterilization can keep your medical equipment from receiving clearance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory bodies. At worst, inadequate sterilization can result in the transmission of infectious diseases which can lead to patient illness or death.

However, before you begin the sterilization process, surgical instruments should be presoaked or rinsed to prevent the drying of blood and to soften or remove blood from the instruments.

There are various types of sterilization, including the following three: steam sterilization, dry heat sterilization and chemical sterilization.

1. Steam Sterilization

An example of a steam steriliser is the autoclave, which applies steam under intense pressure and heat to destroy all microorganisms on an object. Steam can clean several everyday medical devices, and it is typically the safest and cheapest option.

When you place the equipment inside a steam sterilizer, be sure you leave enough spaces between various pieces so each piece can freely move. Ensure you refer to the manufacturer’s manual before using the steam sterilizer.

2. Dry Heat Sterilization

Dry heat is a powerful but slow technique requiring high temperatures and time. Because of this, it is not suitable for many materials, but it is often still more reliable than various other options. Dry heat sterilization uses the air at around 340 degrees F to kill microbial life. Where steam sterilization is not applicable, dry heat sterilization is an alternative.

3. Chemical Sterilization

The chemical sterilization process uses prepared and aggressive chemical solutions to kill a broad range of pathogens and have properties that could be harmful to humans. You completely submerge the equipment into the chemical solution for a specific period until the pathogens die. Once sterilized, rinse off the equipment and allow it to dry. Chemical sterilization is unsuitable for biological materials, fibre optics and other highly heat-sensitive materials. Some chemicals often used in sterilization are; Ozone, Ethylene oxide, Hydrogen peroxide and bleach.

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