Sterilization in the Medical Field

Document Type:Research Paper

Subject Area:Medicine

Document 1

One of the key safety activity that is carried out in all medical facilities is sterilization. Basically, sterilization involves the process of killing and deactivating all forms of biological agents that may be present in culture mediums, medications, surfaces or fluids that are meant for use in the health care sector. In most cases, health care tools such as scalpels, pacemakers and hypodermic needles need to be sterilized before being used to ensure that the patient does not bear the risk of contracting another illness. This ensures that they are pathogen-free and that the safety of the patient as well as that of the concerned medical professional is upheld. Biological agents that are eliminated through sterilization includes bacteria, spore forms, fungi and harmful unicellular organisms among others. The failure of the concerned health care professional to carry out effective sterilization processes put his safety and that of the patients at stake as it may create pathways for fresh or secondary infections. Such occurrences may not only add to the miseries of the patients in terms of increased costs of medical care but also may worsen their conditions leading to death. Ultimately, sterilization in the medical field is carried out through various methods to ensure faster realization of the underlying safety requirements. Methods of Sterilization There are various methods that can be adopted for sterilization purposes in the field of medicine. The choice of the sterilization method depends on various factors such as the availability of the required facilities, the storage period and type of equipment or apparatus among others.

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The use of pressurized steam or what is popularly known as the autoclaving is one of the most effective methods of heat sterilization as it eliminates all the microbes, spores and viruses (Burlew, Britton, & American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses,2002). In this method, the medical equipment is subjected to the steam heated to the temperatures of 121-134 °C at a pressure of 100kPa which is sufficient enough to offer sterility levels of 10−4. Dry heat or flaming or baking is another heat sterilization method in which the medical equipment is exposed to very high temperatures that destroys the disease-causing microorganisms on the equipment. On this method, the equipment is subjected to the standard set temperatures of 160 °C for two hours which ensures that most of the disease-causing agents are destroyed. In a rapid method, air is heated to the temperatures of 190 °C for at least 6 minutes for unwrapped medical articles and12 minutes for the wrapped equipment (Block, 2000).

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Radiation sterilization This is where sterilization is attained by utilizing electromagnetic radiation like the electron beams, X-rays, and the gamma rays among other to achieve a desired level of sterilization. The electromagnetic radiation is energetic enough to ionize atoms or molecules to allow sterilization of the medical equipment (Fairand, 2002). The non-ionizing radiation which is a ultra-violet light irradiation sterilization method is particularly useful in sterilizing surfaces and other transparent surfaces. Sterile filtration This is a sterilization method that is widely used to sterilize medical articles that cannot be sterilized by either use of irradiation, chemicals or heat. Medical articles such as the drug products, protein solutions, heat labile pharmaceuticals among others are best sterilized through microfiltration using filtering membranes (Block, 2000). The third importance of sterilization in the medical field is the prevention of double surgeries (McDonnell & Sheard, 2012).

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Double surgeries may occur after the first surgery has already been conducted but the health of the patient continues on deteriorating especially when there is an omission when it was being carried out. Sterilization ensures that instances of double surgeries are avoided as all the avenues for pathogenic transmission are sealed thereby ensuring the patients avoid second surgeries that would otherwise be costly and critical to their health. In summation, sterilization processes have significant uses in the medical field. As such, it is through such processes that surgical and other health care tools, equipment and devices are kept pathogen-free which in turn helps in control of diseases, their spread and above all their transmission from one patient to another or to other specialists in the sector such as nurses or doctors among others.

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Fairand, B. P. Radiation sterilization for health care products: X-ray, gamma, and electron beam. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Bottom of Form Kayser, F.

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