Decontamination of medical equipment
Cleaning, disinfection, and sterilisation save lives and money
Every year millions of surgical procedures and invasive medical procedures are carried out. Such procedures involve contact by a medical device or surgical instrument with a patient’s sterile tissue or mucous membranes. The introduction of infections, such as meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile, is a major risk to patients. In the past decade, there have been concerns regarding iatrogenic transmission of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) through surgical instruments.1
Failure to adequately decontaminate equipment carries the risk of person to person transmission—for example, hepatitis B virus—and transmission of environmental pathogens. Decontamination is a term that encompasses all the processes necessary to enable a reusable device to be reused. This includes cleaning, disinfection, inspection, packaging, sterilisation, storage, and use (box 1). The process makes medical devices safe for users to handle and safe for use on the patient.
Healthcare associated infections are the leading cause of preventable disease. In the