Michele Pearson, Leah Christine Silver, and William Jarvis
Aseptic technique is employed to maximize and maintain asepsis, the absence of pathogenic organisms, in the clinical setting. The goals of aseptic technique are to protect the patient from infection and to prevent the spread of pathogens. Often, practices that clean (remove dirt and other impurities), sanitize (reduce the number of microorganisms to safe levels), or disinfect (remove most microorganisms but not highly resistant ones) are not sufficient to prevent infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 27 million surgical procedures are performed in the United States each year. Surgical site infections are the third most common nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infection and are responsible for longer hospital stays and increased costs to the patient and hospital. Aseptic technique is vital in reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with surgical infections. Description
Aseptic technique can be applied in any clinical setting. Pathogens may introduce infection to the patient through contact with the environment, personnel, or equipment. All patients are potentially vulnerable to infection, although certain situations further increase vulnerability, such as extensive burns or immune disorders that disturb the body's natural defenses. Typical situations that call for aseptic measures include surgery and the insertion of intravenous lines, urinary catheters, and drains.
Asepsis in the operating room
Aseptic technique is most strictly applied in the operating room because of the direct and often extensive disruption of skin and underlying tissue. Aseptic technique helps to prevent or minimize postoperative infection. PREOPERATIVE PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES.
The most common source of pathogens that cause surgical site infections is the patient. While microorganisms normally colonize parts in or on the human body without causing disease, infection may result when this endogenous flora is introduced to tissues exposed during surgical procedures. In order to reduce this risk, the patient is prepared or prepped by shaving hair from the surgical site; cleansing with a disinfectant containing such chemicals as iodine, alcohol, or chlorhexidine gluconate; and applying sterile drapes around the surgical site.
In all clinical settings, handwashing is an important step in asepsis. The "2002 Standards, Recommended Practices, and Guidelines" of the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN) states that proper handwashing can be "the single most important measure to reduce the spread of microorganisms." In general settings, hands are to be washed when visibly soiled, before and after contact with the patient, after contact with other potential sources of microorganisms, before invasive procedures, and after removal of gloves. Proper handwashing for most clinical settings involves removal of jewelry, avoidance of clothing contact with the sink, and a minimum of 10–15 seconds of hand scrubbing with soap, warm water, and vigorous friction.
A surgical scrub is performed by members of the surgical team who will come into contact with the sterile field or sterile instruments and equipment. This procedure requires use of a long-acting, powerful, antimicrobial soap on the hands and forearms for a longer period of time than used for typical handwashing. Institutional policy usually designates an acceptable minimum length of time required; the CDC recommends at least two to five minutes of scrubbing. Thorough drying is essential, as moist surfaces invite the presence of pathogens. Contact with the faucet or other potential contaminants should be avoided. The faucet can be turned off with a dry paper towel, or, in many cases, through use of a foot pedal. An important principle of aseptic technique is that fluid (a potential mode of pathogen transmission) flows in the direction of gravity....
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