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Glossary of Sterilization Terms

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  • Glossary of Sterilization Terms


    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

    Action level:

    Concentration of a regulated substance (e.g., ethylene oxide, formaldehyde) within the employee breathing zone, above which OSHA requirements apply. Activation of a sterilant:

    Process of mixing the contents of a chemical sterilant that come in two containers (small vial with the activator solution; container of the chemical). Keeping the two chemicals separate until use extends the shelf life of the chemicals. Aeration:

    Method by which ethylene oxide (EtO) is removed from EtO-sterilized items by warm air circulation in an enclosed cabinet specifically designed for this purpose. Antimicrobial agent:

    Any agent that kills or suppresses the growth of microorganisms. Antiseptic:

    Substance that prevents or arrests the growth or action of microorganisms by inhibiting their activity or by destroying them. The term is used especially for preparations applied topically to living tissue. Asepsis:

    Prevention of contact with microorganisms. Autoclave:

    Device that sterilizes instruments or other objects using steam under pressure. The length of time required for sterilization depends on temperature, vacuum, and pressure.

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    Bacterial count:

    Method of estimating the number of bacteria per unit sample. The term also refers to the estimated number of bacteria per unit sample, usually expressed as number of colony-forming units. Bactericide:

    Agent that kills bacteria. Bioburden:

    Number and types of viable microorganisms with which an item is contaminated; also called bioload or microbial load. Biofilm:

    Accumulated mass of bacteria and extracellular material that is tightly adhered to a surface and cannot be easily removed. Biologic indicator:

    Device for monitoring the sterilization process. The device consists of a standardized, viable population of microorganisms (usually bacterial spores) known to be resistant to the sterilization process being monitored. Biologic indicators are intended to demonstrate whether conditions were adequate to achieve sterilization. A negative biologic indicator does not prove that all items in the load are sterile or that they were all exposed to adequate sterilization conditions. Bleach:

    Household bleach (that includes 5.25% or 6.00%–6.15% sodium hypochlorite depending on manufacturer) is usually diluted in water at 1:10 or 1:100. Approximate dilutions are 1.5 cups of bleach in a gallon of water for a 1:10 dilution (~6,000 ppm) and 0.25 cup of bleach in a gallon of water for a 1:100 dilution (~600 ppm). Sodium hypochlorite products that make pesticidal claims, such as sanitization or disinfection, must be registered by EPA and be labeled with an EPA Registration Number.
    Format Change [February 2017]

    The format of this section was changed to improve readability and accessibility. The content is unchanged.

    None 52,500-61,500
    1:10 5,250-6,150
    1:100 525-615
    1:1000 53-62
    Bowie-Dick test:

    Diagnostic test of a sterilizer’s ability to remove air from the chamber of a prevacuum steam sterilizer. The air-removal or Bowie-Dick test is not a test for sterilization.

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    Ceiling limit:

    Concentration of an airborne chemical contaminant that should not be exceeded during any part of the workday. If instantaneous monitoring is not feasible, the ceiling must be assessed as a 15-minute time-weighted average exposure. Centigrade or Celsius:

    A temperature scale (0°C = freezing point of water; 100°C = boiling point of water at sea level). Equivalents mentioned in the guideline are as follows:
    20°C = 68°F;
    25°C = 77°F;
    121°C = 250°F;
    132°C = 270°F;
    134°C = 273°F.

    For other temperatures the formula is: F° = (C° × 9 ⁄ 5) + 32 or C° = (F° − 32) × 5 ⁄ 9. Central processing or Central service department:

    The department within a health-care facility that processes, issues, and controls professional supplies and equipment, both sterile and nonsterile, for some or all patient-care areas of the facility. Challenge test pack:

    Pack used in installation, qualification, and ongoing quality assurance testing of health-care facilitysterilizers. Chemical indicator:

    Device for monitoring a sterilization process. The device is designed to respond with a characteristic chemical or physical change to one or more of the physical condi­tions within the sterilizing chamber. Chemical indicators are intended to detect potential sterili­zation failures that could result from incorrect packaging, incorrect loading of the sterilizer, or malfunctions of the sterilizer. The “pass” response of a chemical indicator does not prove the item accompanied by the indicator is necessarily sterile. The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation has defined five classes of chemical indicators: Class 1 (process indicator); Class 2 (Bowie-Dick test indicator); Class 3 (single-parameter indicator); Class 4 (multi-parameter indicator); and Class 5 (integrating indicator). Contact time:

    Time a disinfectant is in direct contact with the surface or item to be disinfected. For surface disinfection, this period is framed by the application to the surface until complete drying has occurred. Container system, rigid container:

    Sterilization containment device designed to hold medical devices for sterilization, storage, transportation, and aseptic presentation of contents. Contaminated:

    State of having actual or potential contact with microorganisms. As used in health care, the term generally refers to the presence of microorganisms that could produce disease or infection. Control, positive:

    Biologic indicator, from the same lot as a test biologic indicator, that is left unexposed to the sterilization cycle and then incubated to verify the viability of the test biologic indicator. Cleaning:

    removal, usually with detergent and water or enzyme cleaner and water, of adherent visible soil, blood, protein substances, microorganisms and other debris from the surfaces, crevices, serrations, joints, and lumens of instruments, devices, and equipment by a manual or mechanical process that prepares the items for safe handling and/or further decontamination. Culture:

    growth of microorganisms in or on a nutrient medium; to grow microorganisms in or on such a medium. Culture medium:

    Substance or preparation used to grow and cultivate microorganisms. Cup:

    8 fluid ounces.

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