How operating theatres are kept sterile

Operating theatres are of vital importance to the healthcare sector. Not only do they provide lifesaving and life-extending interventions for patients, but they are also at the forefront of advanced medical innovations that will allow for better patient outcomes in even the most complex of cases. Therefore, it is vital that operating theatres are maintained to the highest standards in order to ensure a safe environment for both patients and theatre staff.

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The importance of sterile conditions

It is estimated the NHS Foundation Trust Network that over 10 million surgical interventions are performed in England each year, in approximately 3,000 operating theatres. And while surgical interventions are much safer than at any other time in history, there is always a risk of complications arising due to infection, or cross-contamination, which can occur if the operating theatre and the surgical tools and equipment are not kept clean and sterile.

Keeping operating theatres clean and sterile

Keeping an operating theatre clean and sterile is a complex task that requires the use of skilled staff, effective protocols and specialist cleaning equipment and materials. Not only do healthcare facilities need to ensure that the room itself is cleaned using professional cleaning products after each operation, but specific attention also needs to be paid to cleaning all the nooks and crannies of complex and delicate surgical equipment. Heat, radiation, or chemical treatment is commonly used to kill off bacteria and other microbes that may be present, not only the surface of equipment, but also in the hard-to-reach grooves and recesses.

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Another innovative sterilisation method for tools and equipment involves the use of a large ultrasonic cleaner. This method of cleaning involves placing contaminated items into a cleaning tank that has been fitted with piezoelectric transducers. The large ultrasonic cleaner generates ultrasonic waves that vibrate cleaning fluid to a very high frequency, allowing the cleaning fluid to penetrate every crevice for a deep and thorough clean in only a few seconds.

No matter what cleaning and sterilisation process is chosen (and it may be that operating theatres need to use a combination of methods, depending on the type of equipment), it is vital that all persons involved in the decontamination process follow the strict rules and procedures of their facility, as well as the manufacturers’ instructions, to ensure patient safety.