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Understanding the Basics of Sterilization and Liquid Chemical Sterilization

By: Daniel Prince

When it comes to sterilization, you can never be too careful. The main objective of proper sterilization of medical devices, supplies and surgical instruments is to remove and destroy all forms of micro life to achieve an acceptable level of sterility.

Medical devices that are not properly sterilized can be life threatening and pose a serious threat to proper patient medical care.

It is imperative then that medical technicians and health workers realize the complex process of sterilization and acquire knowledge about the proper methods and scientific principles of sterilization.

Therefore, it is essential that the standards and principals of sterilization be met in every health care facility, whether it is a dental or a physician’s office, a hospital, a surgical centre, or an outpatient facility.

The Three Key Essentials of the Sterilization Process are:

The conditions should be ideally matched to ensure that the equipment is properly sterilized in a way that would kill any bacterial organism effectively.

The equipment that is sterilized should undergo thorough cleaning to ensure the effectiveness of the sterilization. If the cleaning process is not undergone with strict sterilization parameters, it could damage the whole sterilization process as ineffective.

The sterilized equipment should be thoroughly sterilized with the sterilant so that all surfaces and cracks in the instrument are sterilized.

Achieving proper sterilization is not just based on these three essentials, and proper care should be given to medical device cleaning so that no risk or harm comes to the people that are involved in the sterilization process.

Sterilization involves the use of a chemical or physical procedure to destroy micro bacterial life and organisms. The major agents used to sterilize equipment and instruments are:

  • Saturated Steam
  • Ethylene Oxide gas
  • Hydrogen Peroxide Gas Plasma
  • Liquid Chemicals

Dry heat is used as well but has not been commonly used in recent times. Recently, a new sterilizing agent has emerged, known as Ozone, and it is being used in the US.

Liquid Chemical Sterilization:

Liquid Chemical Sterilization is used to sterilize heat sensitive devices which can be immersed. The method requires the item to be completely immersed in a germicidal solution for a prescribed period of time to kill all the bacterial micro-organisms.

There are two types of liquid chemical sterilization involved in sterilizing equipment:

  • Peracetic Acid
  • Glutaraldehyde

Although it thoroughly accomplishes the task of sterilizing medical devices and equipment, chemical sterility poses a huge risk to the lives of patients and health care workers. Chemicals that come in contact with skin, mucous membrane, tissue, and eyes can have hazardous results. Therefore, it is advised to use protective equipment like goggles, masks, aprons and gloves when performing the process.