Aseptic Technique

WHAT IS ASEPTIC TECHNIQUE?

We all have microorganisms in our bodies. There are some good bacteria and some harmful ones. Bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes are known as pathogens. Healthcare providers make use of aseptic techniques to protect patients from harmful microorganisms while performing a procedure. The aseptic technique involves the use of procedures and practices that will avoid contamination by pathogens. It has to do with following rules strictly to reduce the likelihood of developing an infection. Aseptic techniques are being employed by healthcare providers for surgery, during clinics, outpatient care centers and even in other health care settings.

Aseptic technique
Photo Credit: Medical News Today

USES OF ASEPTIC TECHNIQUE

Ensuring strict aseptic procedure will help to reduce the spread of infection.

Aseptic techniques are being used by healthcare providers during the following:

  • When they handle surgical equipment
  • During vaginal delivery
  • When handling dialysis catheters
  • When performing dialysis
  • When inserting a chest tube
  • When inserting a urinary catheter
  • When inserting a central intravenous or arterial lines
  • When inserting drains
  • When carrying out a surgical procedure

TYPES OF ASEPTIC TECHNIQUES

The Joint Commission has recognized four major aspects of the aseptic technique which include: patient equipment and preparation, barriers, environmental controls, and the contact guidelines. Every one of them has an important role to play in the prevention of infection while carrying out a medical procedure.

PATIENT AND EQUIPMENT PREPARATION

Patients can be protected by the use of sterile equipment and sterile instruments by health care providers. Before a procedure is carried out, the site is disinfected and the equipment may be sterilized or disinfected.

BARRIERS

Barriers prevent the transmission of pathogens either from a healthcare worker or from the environment or from both to the patient thus serving as a source of protection to the patient. The barriers that can be used in aseptic technique include the following:

  • Sterile gloves
  • Sterile gowns
  • Facial masks for both the patient and the healthcare provider
  • Sterile drapes

Sterile barriers are those barriers that have not been exposed to a contaminated surface. They are items that have been cleaned and specially packaged. When they are being used by the health workers, they help to decrease the rate of exposure to germs.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROLS

A sterile environment is a procedure room in which the doors are always closed. The only people allowed inside during a procedure are the necessary health personnel’s. The greater the number of people that are allowed in a procedure room, the more the chances of harmful bacteria to contaminate the environment.

CONTACT GUIDELINES

After a healthcare provider has put on a sterile barrier, he or she should avoid all non-sterile items. They should only touch sterile items.

A procedure that commonly poses a risk of infection is the insertion of a urinary catheter. Catheters are used to drain urine from the bladder and are linked with catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs). When a healthcare provider passes a catheter, they directly encounter all the four major types of aseptic techniques in action as follows:

  • Barriers: they put on sterile gloves
  • Patient and equipment preparation: they open up a sterile packaging that contains the sterile catheter and they also disinfect the patient’s skin with a special solution
  • Environmental controls: the only people present should be those directly involved in carrying out the procedure which in most cases is just one or two providers with the patient.
  • Contact guidelines: while passing the catheter, the healthcare provider ensures that the hand that advances the catheter into the patient’s urethra does not have any contact with a non-sterile surface.

An infection can develop even if it is just one aspect of the aseptic technique that is missed.

COMPARING ASEPTIC TECHNIQUE WITH A CLEAN TECHNIQUE

Not all circumstances call for the use of aseptic techniques, some may just need a good cleaning to be done. Environmental cleanliness is necessary for the prevention of infections.

The healthcare providers are trained both on aseptic and clean techniques. Aseptic technique aims to completely eliminate germs while the clean technique is focused on just decreasing the number of germs when possible. Clean techniques are necessary for everyday use by the patient and the healthcare provider as they prevent infections on a daily basis.

Clean techniques include things like hand washing and wearing clean gloves when necessary. The healthcare providers ensure that the patient’s environment is very clean but they do not make use of sterile equipment or aseptic techniques. Clean techniques are mostly used by healthcare providers when they are doing the following:

  • Administering an injection
  • Emptying the drainage bag of a urinary catheter
  • Giving a bed bath
  • Passing a peripheral IV
  • Removing a peripheral IV
  • Removing  urinary catheter

USE OF ASEPTIC TECHNIQUES AT HOME

Even though your home is not a surgery center, times may exist when you have to use an aseptic technique for either you or a loved one such as changing a wound dressing- this would require the use of a sterile dressing. Be aware that you need some training to be able to practice proper aseptic techniques. Before you attempt to change a wound dressing at home, you should have witnessed a demonstration of it by a healthcare provider and also practice it before the healthcare provider. Sterile gloves and special sterile dressing kits are necessary to change a sterile dressing.

BENEFITS OF ASEPTIC TECHNIQUE

You are likely to get an infection when there is a disruption in the skin thus it is essential to get early treatment for wounds and burns. Cuts made during surgery still put you at risk of developing infections. Aseptic techniques used by health workers before, during and after a procedure help to reduce the risk of developing an infection.

You are susceptible to infections when you require surgery or other aseptic technique-needing procedures. You immune system must be very potent for healing to occur and you will have a better recovery rate if you do not have an infection to contend with.

COMPLICATIONS OF ASEPTIC TECHNIQUE

Healthcare providers make use of aseptic techniques to reduce the likelihood of developing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). The avoidable infections include the following:

  • CAUTIs
  • Central line-associated blood stream infections (CLABSIs)
  • Surgical site infections

The infections above constitute a major healthcare concern. Medical facilities are expected to report their infection rates to the federal government and if this value is too high then the facility is very likely to face a disciplinary measure.

HAIs cause costly effects to both the patients and the healthcare providers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an estimate of 37,000CLABSIs yearly for those who undergo dialysis. Getting proper treatment for these conditions is very expensive. Those who undergo dialysis usually have numerous chronic conditions that make it difficult to recover from an infection, such as immunosuppressive diseases. It is necessary to first prevent the infection as this saves lives and money.

OUTCOME OF ASEPTIC TECHNIQUE

The outcome of aseptic technique is dependent on the level of compliance of the healthcare providers through all the procedure.

In the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine, half of HAIs are preventable.

Healthcare professionals have the responsibility of practicing clean and aseptic techniques. Speak up if you notice that a healthcare provider fails to wash hands or sterilize some equipment as you may end up saving someone from a potentially life-threatening infection.

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