At health care facilities, an invasive procedure is defined as contact between a patient’s mucous membrane or sterile tissue and a surgical instrument or a medical device. Almost all procedures are considered high risk and the introduction of a foreign body during the procedure could prove to be near fatal for the patient in question.
The risk of infection caused by a foreign body increases significantly when sterilized reusable medical equipment and other sterilized items are not used. The level of sterilization and disinfection is completely dependent on the use of the medical equipment. The user of the equipment must keep in mind how critical the situation is and base the level of disinfection and sterilization required on that.
Emphasizing disinfection and sterilization at health care facilities is sure to decrease the rate of infection associated with patient care.
There are three basic levels of disinfection or sterilization that need to be kept in mind when using medical equipment for a procedure.
If medical devices or surgical equipment are contaminated with bacterial spores or any other microorganism, they can critically risk the success and efficacy of a surgical procedure. It is critical that any object that enters the sterile tissue or the vascular system, be completely sterilized otherwise microbial contamination could result in the transmission of a number of diseases. Such critical items may include cardiac and urinary catheters, ultrasound probes (mainly used in sterile body cavities) and surgical instruments. The items mentioned in this list should either be purchased sterilized, or should be sterilized immediately using the properly dictated methods.
Items that come in contact with non-intact skin or the mucous membrane are considered semi-critical items. These items include some variety of endoscopes, laryngoscope blades, anorectal manometry catheters, diaphragm-fitting rings, respiratory therapy equipment and anesthesia equipment. It is of utmost importance that all these medical devices and equipment should be completely free of microorganisms like mycobacterium, fungi, viruses, bacteria, etc.
Minor presence of bacterial spores can be ignored because intact mucous membranes, like those found in the gastrointestinal tract or lungs, are naturally resistant to infections caused by these spores but are highly susceptible to other microorganisms. At the very least chemical disinfectants should be used to disinfect and sterilize semi-critical items.
Non Critical Items
Items that come into regular contact with intact skin but not the mucous membrane are considered non-critical items. Intact skin, itself, acts like a defensive barrier to most microorganisms, therefore the sterility of the objects that come in direct contact with the skin is defined as non-critical. These items include patient furniture, bedpans, pressure cuffs, bedside tables, linens, bedside tables, bed rails, crutches, stethoscope, etc. Most non-critical devices and equipment are reusable and can be decontaminated easily without going through arduous disinfection or sterilization methods.
In this case, maintaining appropriate disinfection and sterilization levels can literally be the difference between life and death.
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