Disinfection and Sterilization in Health Care Facilities: What Clinicians Need to Know

Healthcare Epidemiology | 01/09/2004
Servicios Hospitalarios Gestión Higiene y desinfección hospitalaria Tecnología Equipamiento Médico Servicios Centrales Diagnóstico y Tratamiento Esterilización Documentación Bibliografias Disinfection and Sterilization in Health Care Facilities: What Clinicians Need to Know

Healthcare Epidemiology, 2004;39:702-9

William A. Rutala and David J. Weber
Hospital Epidemiology, University of North Carolina Health Care System, and Division of Infectious Diseases, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill


All invasive procedures involve contact between a medical device or surgical instrument and a patient?s sterile tissue or mucous membranes. A major risk of all such procedures is the introduction of pathogenic microbes that could lead to infection. Failure to properly disinfect or sterilize reusable medical equipment carries a risk associated with breach of the host barriers. The level of disinfection or sterilization is dependent on the intended use of the object: critical items (such as surgical instruments, which contact sterile tissue), semicritical items (such as endoscopes, which contact mucous membranes), and noncritical items (such as stethoscopes, which contact only intact skin) require sterilization, high-level disinfection, and low-level disinfection, respectively. Cleaning must always precede high-level disinfection and sterilization. Users must consider the advantages and disadvantages of specific methods when choosing a disinfection or sterilization process. Adherence to these recommendations should improve disinfection and sterilization practices in health care facilities, thereby reducing infections associated with contaminated patient-care items.
Rutala, William A.; Weber, David J.

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