Sterilizing Surgical Instruments and Why It’s Important

Cleaning and sterilizing medical equipment are vital for the safety of both medical experts and their patients. Of course, proper management and correct use is also key to avoiding any possible spread of infections from one patient to another.

This article discusses some of the best ways to clean and sterilize medical instruments, plus how it’s beneficial to patients and health professionals.

How to Sterilize Medical Equipment

Sterilization is a broad process that entails different activities, including cleaning, decontamination/disinfection, and then sterilization.

Cleaning Of the Equipment

This involves activities done to remove dust, dirt, or any materials on the equipment’s surfaces. Cleaning must always come first before disinfection or any high sterilization. It can be done with water or even without a detergent.

Whichever the means of washing objects (manual or with chemicals), a thorough wash will:

  • Help reduce the risk of microbial contamination by removing infection-causing microorganisms
  • Improves the durability and functionality of the medical instruments
  • Guarantees proper contact between disinfecting, sterilizing, and any infective bacteria left on the surfaces of the objects.

Disinfection Stage

This second stage of cleaning and managing surgical equipment involves using liquid chemicals to kill or reduce the number of bacteria and other non-spore-forming microorganisms.

The degree of disinfection on the intention or use of the objects. Some objects will require high or low-level disinfection. It may also depend on the category of the things. For instance, there are:

  • Critical instruments that will directly get into contact with the sterile tissues like equipment for plastic surgery
  • Semi necessary equipment like endoscope that brings into contact with mucous membrane
  • And finally, non-critical objects or those that contact the skin


Sterilization entails all the processes done to kill or eliminate all forms of transmissible agents such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, and infection or disease-causing microorganisms.

Method of Sterilizing Surgical Equipment

Every instrument, including that equipment for plastic surgery, requires proper sanitation. So, choosing effective sterilization is key to medical-instrument safety.

Besides, the regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) won’t give clearance to hospitals and surgical centers with precise means o sterilization and equipment management. Worst is, inadequate sterilization may cause infection transmission, leading to illness and death.

To avoid such, consider the following methods:

Steam Sterilization

Steam sterilization techniques like autoclaves are always the safest and cheapest cleaning medical instruments. It involves applying intense pressure or heat on the equipment to help kill microorganisms on the objects.

Use appropriate decontaminant to clean the outer body of the instrument. But ensure to wrap the equipment with cotton before steaming, and this is to prevent any damages to the object.

Dry Heat Sterilization

This is an option used when steam can’t penetrate the equipment or even damage it. The method requires high temperatures and takes more time to heat, making it unsuitable for most materials.

Plasma Gas Sterilizers

This entails using low-temperature hydrogen peroxide-based gas to eliminate pathogens on the medical objects.

Chemical Sterilization

Chemical sterilization involves using various chemical solutions like ethylene oxide, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, and ozone. Such chemicals can kill different ranges of pathogens.

So, submerge the equipment into any of the chemicals chosen for some time. They might, however, be harmful to human beings.

Therefore, medical experts must ensure they’re extra careful when dealing with these chemicals. Again, the substances are not suitable for sensitive materials like fiber optics. Once the equipment is sterilized, leave them to dry.

Importance of Sterilizing Surgical Equipment

With invasive medical procedures like plastic surgery and others, there exists a contract between the device used, the patient’s mucous membrane, and the expert doing the operation. This increases patient and doctor infection risk, especially when the equipment is not sterilized.

Also, sterilization helps;

  • Reduce or eliminate non-sterilized microorganisms found on the surface of the equipment
  • Prevents corrosion of the costly and precious medical tools, thus increasing their lifespan
  • Remove or eliminate any breeding grounds for other surviving organisms and germs.
  • Eliminate blood, pus, and other foreign particles that may result in complications to other subsequent patients.

For adequate safety for both the patients and medical experts, health professionals should keep their equipment clean and well maintained through thorough sterilization.

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