There are different processes for cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization. These three are different processes that are commonly collectively referred to as “disinfection” .
Cleaning - Simply removing foreign material like dust, soil, and debris to reduce the amount of organisms present on a surface.
Disinfection - Removes most pathogenic organisms except bacterial spores.
Sterilization - Removal of all forms of microbial life, including viruses, bacteria, fungi and spores.
How to Sterilize Medical Equipment?
The risk of spread of infection should be assessed to determine the choice between using sterilization or disinfection accordingly. Sterilization is required for all critical medical devices that are intended for being in contact with sterile tissues, and "semi-critical" devices that come in contact with mucous tissues or non intact skin (respiratory therapy equipment, anesthesia equipment, endoscopes, parts of laryngoscope, etc).
According to ADA recommendations, surgical instruments that penetrate soft tissue or bone (scalpel blades, bone chisels, surgical burs, extraction forceps, and periodontal scalers) are classified as critical devices and are sterilized after each use.
Importance of Sterilizing Medical Equipment
A surgical instrument or medical device that comes in contact with a patient's mucous membranes or sterile tissue and carries a significant risk of introducing pathogenic microbes, potentially resulting in infection. Lack of proper sterilization and disinfection of medical equipment increases the risk of infection due to the breach of host barriers. Eliminating blood, mucous, saliva, pus and foreign particles, or dirt that is left behind which could lead to dangerous complications for the next patient requiring surgery on whom the medical practitioner uses the instrument.
Major benefits of sterilizing medical equipment include:
1. Decreasing pathogenic load -- the number of non-sterilized bacteria living on a surface.
2. Preventing the corrosion of expensive and highly precise tools that have intricate functional pieces
3. Removing the breeding ground for the surviving germs.
4. Ensures the safe transport of equipment which needs to be packed and assembled for sterilization or disinfection.
5. With proper Sterilization and disinfection, safe use of non-invasive and invasive medical devices can be ensured.