How Is Sterilization Confirmed?
Because sterilization is so important in the healthcare setting, confirmation of sterilization is an important step when using sterilization equipment like an autoclave. Verification of the sterilization performed by an autoclave, gives confidence to all who use the materials and equipment coming from the autoclave that they have an appropriate system in place to minimize risk of the transmission of microorganisms that can create infection. These systems protect those who work with the instruments as well as those who are receiving treatment.
Appropriate sterilization requires a great program, followed by all staff, that ensures that the person operating the autoclave has followed all the recommended steps and methods for the handling and cleaning instruments. Autoclaves should be verified before they are used in healthcare settings. That means that chemical and biological indicators should be used as prescribed before use to test all ETO or ethylene oxide, steam, and other low-temperature sterilizers.
There are many ways to test for sterilization. Each machine will come with instructions on how to test that particular machine. There are chemical tests, spore tests, and tests for the equipment itself to make sure it is functioning correctly. Spore testing is to test for the presence of spores, which are very hard to kill. Part of the sterilization confirmation process of the complete sterilization protocols, is outlined below.
In sterilization technique, important areas used for sterilizing should be divided into specific areas pertaining to their use. There should be four areas: storage, decontamination, sterilization, and packaging. The idea here is to keep sterile materials sterile and not in danger of being contaminated by non-sterile materials. Airflow patterns also should be conceived to reduce contaminant flow toward sterile areas..
The packaging area is for inspecting, assembling and packaging materials and instruments now ready for use. The walls and floors should be engineered of materials capable of withstanding any chemical agents used for disinfecting or cleaning. This should be a clean area and remain a clean area.
It's important to clean items and materials as much as possible before loading them into an autoclave. The autoclave will be more efficienct by lightening the bioburden inside it. Materials and equipment almost always need pre-cleaning.
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