Hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, labs, and their staff fight diseases every day by ensuring they use sterilized supplies. Here are the top four ways medical facilities sterilize devices to keep you and your loved ones healthy and prevent the spread of infections and diseases.
The germ theory of disease was a breakthrough discovery in disease prevention. Now, it's the current scientific theory for how many diseases are transmitted.
In this theory, certain diseases are said to be caused by the invasion of the body by microorganisms. These microorganisms are too small to be seen except through a microscope.
Louis Pasteur - a French chemist and microbiologist
Louis Pasteur, a French chemist and microbiologist, English surgeon Joseph Lister, and Robert Koch, a German physician, get much of the credit for developing this theory advancing medicine, and dramatically preventing the spread of disease.
Medical staff in medical facilities worldwide work hard to limit the spread of disease in health care environments in formal settings and in home health care settings.
These are the top four ways medical facilities sterilize devices.
· Steam and Pressure
Autoclaves, also called steam sterilizers, work by using steam under pressure to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. Items placed in the autoclave must withstand temperatures typically above 120 degrees Celsius. Also, objects that steam can damage, such as paper, are not placed in the autoclave.
A staff member places items separately into the autoclave to ensure even penetration by the steam. While this method sounds simple, facilities must closely follow guidelines on how to use the autoclave to ensure safety and efficacy.
· Dry Heat
Whereas autoclaves use wet heat to sterilize items, medical staff can also sterilize devices with dry heat. The dry heat method sterilizes items by slowly heating them to a high temperature, killing bacteria and other microorganisms. Dry heat is often used for powders and liquids.
This method is generally not as efficient as steam sterilization. But dry heat has several sterilizing applications, including for hydrophobic items and items that moisture can damage, such as powders.
Medical providers can also sterilize equipment with chemicals. One of the most common chemicals used for sterilization is ethylene oxide. This chemical compound works by destroying the cell membranes of harmful microorganisms. In fact, the FDA reports that about 50 percent of all sterile medical devices in the U.S. are sterilized with ethylene oxide.
Ethylene oxide is used on plastic, resin, metals, or glass devices. It can also sterilize objects with multiple layers of packaging or other difficult-to-reach spaces, such as tubes like catheters. The wide applicability of this method makes this one of the top four ways medical facilities sterilize devices.
At times, medical staff sterilizes devices with radiation. This method typically sterilizes single-use items, such as syringes, medical gloves, and gowns.
A staff member seals a clean item in an air-tight bag, then exposes the item to radiation. Radiation causes severe damage to cellular DNA. Since DNA controls the cell, the cell cannot function properly after sustaining this damage, so it dies, sterilizing the equipment. The sealed bag ensures the object stays sterile until opened.
· Infection Prevention Vital for Older People
Long-term health care facilities and in-home caregivers must pay special attention to infection prevention because of the nature of those they are caring for. When people live close together, they are more likely to become sick with infections that can be transmitted from person to person.
When a person coughs, sneezes, and speaks, droplets of saliva and mucus are released. These droplets, which are infected by microorganisms, can be inhaled through a person's nose and mouth and can contaminate a person's or caregiver's hands.
Even common infections, like the flu or the common cold, can spread quickly throughout the population, including staff, creating health problems for everyone.
Keeping equipment and the care environment clean and sterilized keeps the care recipient healthy and the caregiver. Keep in mind the staff and caregivers go home after work to their families. We saw what could happen during the COVID-19 virus crisis.
Often family caregivers forget or are unaware of the importance of infection prevention, proper sanitation, and sterilization in their roles as caregivers. Informal family caregivers are usually untrained and unprepared for their role and often make the situation worse for the loved one they are helping.
Check this resource for information - Disinfection and Sterilization - APIC.
About the Author
Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.
Contributor since September 25th, 2020
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