As part of a robust infection prevention strategy, sterilization of devices and instruments protects both patients and clinical staff from exposure to infectious microorganisms. But owning and using an autoclave doesn't guarantee proper sterilization.
Monitoring the effectiveness of your autoclaves is key to preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), one of the biggest threats to patient safety. Click the following boxes to learn more about the three components critical to monitoring the sterilization process:
In September 2015, the CDC Health Alert Network delivered an advisory alerting health care providers and facilities about the public health need to properly maintain, clean, and disinfect or sterilize reusable medical devices. This was due to reports of patients being notified that they may be at an increased risk for infection due to lapses in basic cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization of medical devices.¹
In addition, The Joint Commission found that immediate threat-to-life (ITL) declarations related to improperly sterilized or high-level disinfected (HLD) equipment had increased significantly between 2013 and 2016. In 2016, 74 percent of all ITL declarations from The Joint Commission were related to improperly sterilized or HLD equipment.²
In many cases, these lapses were due to the failure to follow manufacturers' reprocessing instructions, and highlight the need for health care facilities to review policies and procedures that protect patients.
With many procedures that were commonly performed in the hospital now performed outside the hospital, there is a focus on ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) and clinics as potential locations for an infection outbreak.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also known as the Recovery Act) appropriated $50 million to support states in the prevention and reduction of HAIs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) dedicated $10 million of that appropriation to improve the process and frequency of inspections for ambulatory surgical centers.
For reference, you can download the CDC guidelines for sterilizer testing, and the six-step in-office biological indicator for monitoring steam processes. Click the links to download:
Mechanical indicators include physical defects (to gauges, displays, printouts, etc.) resulting in malfunctions such as leakage, wet wrappers, or corrosion.
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Chemical indicators verify the sterilizing agent has penetrated the package and reached the instruments inside.
Biological indicators are the only process indicators that directly monitor the lethality of a given sterilization process, according to the CDC.
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