Joint Commission updates position on steam sterilization

Accreditation Connection, July 6, 2009

After having discussions with multiple professional and trade organizations regarding the common and proper use of sterilization using steam, the Joint Commission has decided to refocus its survey efforts on all critical processes, including sterilization, according to The Joint Commission's website. The JC will consider an effective sterilization method if a complete and effective process of sterilization is used.

Three issues that came up during The Joint Commission's discussion included the terminology used to describe the sterilization process, the indication-related issues that involve the selection of the sterilization cycle or method, and the process-related issues involving the way that a given sterilization method is executed.

On top of this, Joint Commission surveyors will focus on the critical steps of reprocessing. These include the cleaning and decontamination of all visible soil, because steam cannot remove these compounds, any sterilization must meet the parameters by the manufacturer of the sterilizer and the surgical instrument, and the maker of any packaging. Also, each sterilized instrument must be carefully protected and stored in a sterile field.

The Joint Commission surveyors are also being asked to perform other activities, which include observing instruments from the time they leave one operating room to when they are returned to the next, observing the cleaning of the instruments, and reviewing the sterilization logs.

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