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Decontamination of Reusable Medical Devices

Disinfection and Sterilization

Decontamination is a general term that include cleaning, disinfection and sterilization

Cleaning refers to the physical removal of debris in a medical device by manual or automated methods.  It is important for an equipment to be cleaned thoroughly prior to disinfection or sterilization because the presence of organic matter can render the decontamination process ineffective. 

Medical devices are classified into noncritical, semi-critical and critical.  They should be processed with low level disinfection, high level disinfection and sterilization respectively.

  • Low level Disinfection kills infective pathogens (bacteria, fungi and viruses) except mycobacteria and spores
  • High level disinfection kills most infective pathogens except large number of spores
  • Sterilization kills all types of infective agents

Special type of cleaning and disinfection process is needed for endoscope due to their complicated design.   Despite use of AER and meticulous manual cleaning, endoscopes remain one of the most difficult-to-clean medical equipment and outbreaks of MDROs have been associated with inadequately disinfected endoscopes.