Hospitals have a duty to make sure the equipment they use during surgery is sterile and safe for their patients. This helps ensure that a serious post-surgical infection does not occur. Most hospitals have a sterile processing department that ensures its medical equipment is sterile. This department is responsible for the cleaning, decontamination, disinfection, and sterilization of surgical equipment. This is all critical to the health of patients as last week we discussed a Denver medical center that had to shut down its surgery department because of problems with its surgical sterilization.
The sterile processing department in a hospital is typically divided into 4 parts. The decontamination area involves reusable medical equipment. The medical equipment and supplies are decontaminated by the use of a machine or manually by decontaminating chemicals based on what they are.
After they are cleaned they are moved to the assembly and packaging area. This area prepares the equipment to stay sterile until they are used again. The medical equipment is typically packaged into sets or trays to be used or stored for future use. After they are packaged, the equipment is sent to a sterile storage area until they are ready to be used. And finally the distribution area serves several major functions in distributing the sterile equipment.
The sterile processing department serves a major role in the spread of infectious diseases. These departments are busy and constantly meeting the challenging nature of the demands of healthcare without compromising safety standards and recommended practices. Their work is critical in making sure patients do not suffer from a serious injury resulting from improperly sterilized equipment.
Source: University of Rochester Medical Center, "Basics on processing and sterilization", accessed on Oct. 5, 2014