It’s the goal of the medical staff to keep as much bacteria and infection to a minimal. As medical professionals you have to make sure to disinfect your surgical tools and other medical apparatus. Disinfecting them greatly lowers the infection rate that’s why, disinfecting medical tools is one of the highest priorities in the medical industry.
There are certain medical tools that can be cleaned and disinfected only topically. These instruments are primarily stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and thermometers. The best product to use on these medical tools is the common alcohol swab. By using this method, you are cleaning the visual parts only. Even though the tools are only cleaned topically, safety precautions are still taken to lower the transmission of bacteria. For example, prior to placing the thermometer in a patient’s mouth, the provider will place a clean, plastic sheath over the tool and will discard the sheath after its one time only use.
Other medical tools must use a more thorough, deeper, cleaning and disinfection process. We call this sterilization. Most medical offices use an autoclave to assist in this process. Such medical tools that are cleaned and disinfected in this manner are generally the surgical or procedural tools. Any medical tool that comes in contact with a patient’s body fluids will need to be cleaned and disinfected.
To start the cleaning process, the medical personnel will place the dirty medical tool in a solution that contains enzymes and other chemicals that will break down the tissues, body fluids, blood, etc. in which the tool was used. The tool(s) will sit in this solution for an average of 15 minutes. Afterwards, the medical personnel will wear protective clothing/gear to remove the medical tools from the solution. He/she will use a brush, similar to a toothbrush, to scrub the tool. Then, the tool will be rinsed clean with tap water. Now that the medical tools are clean, they are ready to be sterilized.
Sterilization will remove the tiniest spores of bacteria. This ensures that the medical tools, after cleaning, will be totally disinfected. High heat is recommended for this final process. Generally, an autoclave is the recommended route. To autoclave the medical tools, the tools are placed in a bag meant for sterilization. The bag is sealed tightly and placed evenly spaced in the machine. Once in place, the autoclave is turned on and runs approximately 30 minutes. During this time, heat with or without steam and pressure will work to fully sterilize the medical instruments.