What Is Sterile Processing?

It is a commonly done procedure in any hospital that instruments used either in surgery or for evasive procedures such as a colonoscopy must go through proper sterilization. That is the primary function of the department known as the Central Sterile Services Department or CSSD as it is abbreviated. However, the process isn’t just cleaning each instrument, it turns out that each medical instrument has its own set of guidelines that are taken into consideration during the sterile processing, that takes into consideration things such as the material used to create the instrument and what they are primarily used for. As a general rule, all staff within the CSSD must wear protective attire, to protect themselves from any harmful germs and to protect the instruments from being contaminated once sterilization is completed.

Sterilizing Surgical Instruments

A prime example of hospital instruments that are given strict attention to detail in sterilizing are those used in surgery. The instruments used in an operation such as a scalpel will go to the decontamination room first and in order to manually be cleaned by hand then placed in an ultraviolet cleaner before being placed in a disinfectant wash. After the entire sterilization process is properly done, the instruments are either return to the surgical unit for the next procedure to immediately take place or carefully stored in sterile storage.

Different Types of Decontamination

As stated above sterile processing isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to properly sterilize hospital instruments. There are various ways in which decontamination is done each of which plays a vital role in ensuring that the instruments are free of unwanted bacteria:

Pressurized Steam: Heat under pressure along with moisture removes microorganisms from certain instruments that are compatible with such a procedure being done. The instruments are placed in a chamber where the temperature is set to 250 degrees for fifteen minutes.

Ethylene oxide: A chemical used in a gas form to remove the bacteria that the steam process won’t take care of. Keep in mind though that this method is quite dangerous because of the fact that Ethylene Oxide in a gas form is highly flammable and can cause an explosion if exposed to the air, so due to its volatile nature has to be used in an explosion-proof chamber used specifically for sterilizing purposes. This method takes longer than steam since it is imperative to have the instruments to complete the entire cycle which takes as long as 18 hours.

Other Types of Serializing Procedures

Although some of the above methods are used primarily turns out this is just skimming the surface of all the types of decontamination that is done. Hospitals have also utilized such methods as dry heat, Formaldehyde gas, Ozone gas, Hydrogen peroxide plasma, and even microwaves just to name a few more of the methods utilized.

Administration of CSSD

As stated above there are requirements and guidelines that the sterilization units must abide by. to keep these properly managed at all times is an administrative staff who monitor all operations including the entire decontamination process, proper labeling, and packaging, maintaining all records of every step of the procedure, ensuring all sterilizing machines are functioning correctly and all transferring of sterile instruments. In short making sure that all proper procedures are followed to the letter.

Bottom line is that when we go into a hospital for a procedure or an operation we want to trust that the environment is sterile. We don’t stop to take the time to understand how lengthy a method this actually is, but just knowing that there is a place inside a hospital such as CSSD can give us a further reassurance.