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Chap 8:Microbes


Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. The AAMI is authoriative source of standards for sterilization and disinfection


A process that greatly reduces the number of microorganisms on skin or other tissue.


A small steam sterilizer used in low volume clinical settings.


Able to kill bacteria.


Chemical agent capable of inhibiting the growth of bacteria.


A matrix of extracellular polymers produced by microorganisms. These substances bind the microorganisms tightly to a living or nonliving surface, making them highly resistant to antimicrobial action. Biofilm increases the risk of disease transmission on internal medicine devices such as catheters & endoscopic instruments.

Biological indicator

A quality control mechanism used in the process of sterilization. It consists of closed system containing harmless, spore-forming bacteria that can be rapidly cultured after the sterilization process

Case cart system

Method of receiving clean and sterile equipment and preparing it for transportation to a central decontamination area. All equipment is contained within the moveable storage cart.


A process in which air bubbles are imploded (burst inward), releasing particles of soil or tissue debris.

Central Service department

An area of the hospital where medical devices and equipment are processed also called Central Surgical Supply, Surgical processing Department and the Central processing dept.

Central Service Technician

A skilled professional who specializes in processing & maintenance of medical devices used in the health care facility.

Chemical monitor

A method of testing a sterilization parameter. Chemical strips sensitive to physical conditions like temperature are placed with the item being sterilized and change color when the parameter is reached; sometimes called a chemical indicator

Chemical sterilization

A process that uses chemical agents to achieve sterilization.


A suffix indicating death. For example, bactericidal means "able to kill bacteria"


A process that removes organic or inorganic soil or debris using detergent & mechanical or hand washing.

Cobalt-60 radiation

A method of sterilizing prepackaged equipment using ionizing radiation.


To render nonsterile & unacceptable for use in critical areas of the body.


A process in which recently used & soiled medical devices, including instruments, are rendered safe for personnel to handle.


A chemical that breaks down organic debris by emulsification (separation into small particles) to aid in cleaning.


Destruction of microorganisms by heat or chemical means. Spores usually are not destroyed by disinfection.

Enzymatic cleaner

A specific chemical used in detergents & cleaners to penetrate & break down biological debris, such as blood & tissue.

Ethylene oxide

A highly flammable, toxic gas that is capable of sterilizing an object.

Event-related sterility

A wrapped sterile item may become contaminated by environmental conditions or events, such as puncture in the wrapper. This refers to sterility based on the absence of such events. The shelf life is event related not time related

Evidence based practice

Methods & procedures proven to be valid by rigorous testing & professional research.

Exposure time

This is the amt. of time goods are held at a specific time, temp and pressure during a sterilization process this time varies and the size of the load, type of material being sterilized and the type of sterilizer. Also called the hold time


Able to kill fungi

Gas plasma sterilization

A process that uses the form of matter known as plasma (ex. hydrogen peroxide plasma) to sterilize an item. Also referred to as plasma sterilization.


Able to kill germs.

Gravity displacement sterilizer

A type of steam sterilizer that removes air in the chamber by vacuum & refills the chapter with pressurized steam. Also known as a prevacuum sterilizer.

High Level disinfection (HLD)

A process that reduces the bioburden to an absolute minimum.

High vacuum sterilizer

A type of steam sterilizer that removes air in the chamber by vacuum & refills the chapter with pressurized steam. Also known as a prevacuum sterilizer.




A device used in the sterilization process to verify that a parameter of the process (ex. temperature) has been achieved. Indicators are not used to verify that an item is sterile only that a parameter has been achieved.

Just-in-time sterilization

Items to be sterilized shortly before surgery must be processed so they are ready as close to the time of surgery as possible.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

A government mandated requirement for all chemicals used in the workplace. The MSDS describes the formulation, safe use, precautions, & emergency response. The MSDS must be available for each chemical an employee is required to handle their work.

Medical devices

Any equipment, instrument, implant, material, or apparatus used for the diagnosis, treatment, or monitoring of patients.

Noncritical items

items that are not required to be sterile because they do not penetrate intact tissues. Patient care items such as a blood pressure cuff & a stethoscope are noncritical.


A fabric or material that is bonded together as opposed to a process of interweaving individual threads.

Peracetic acid

A chemical used in the sterilization of critical items.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Approved attire worn during the reprocessing of medical devices & the cleaning of patient areas. PPE protects the wearer from contamination by microorganisms.

Prion (proteinaceous infectious particle)

A unique pathogenic substance which contains no nucleic acid. The prion is transmitted by direct contact or ingestion & is resistant to all forms of disinfection & sterilization normally used in the health care setting.

Process challenge monitoring

A sealed, harmless bacteriological sample is included in a load of goods to be sterilized. The sample is recovered following the sterilization process & cultured to test for viability. This process is also called a biological monitoring.


Activities or tasks that prepare used medical devices for use on another patient; these activities include cleaning, disinfection, decontamination, & sterilization.


A designation used by manufacturers to indicate that a medical device can be reprocessed for use on more than one patient.


A method that reduces the number of bacteria in the environment to a safe level.


Any objects used in health care that are capable of penetrating the skin, causing injury.

Shelf life

The length of time a wrapped item remains sterile after it has been subjected to a sterilization process.

Single-use items

Instruments & devices intended for use on one patient only; sometimes called disposable items.

Spaulding system

A system used to determine the level of microbial destruction required for medical devices & supplies based on the risk of infection associated with the area of the body where the device is used. Categories include critical, semi-critical, & and non-critical.


Able to kill spores.


A process by which all microorganisms, including spores, are destroyed.

Terminal decontamination

Thorough cleaning & disinfection of supplies or an environment such as the operating room suite after patient use. Specific protocols & procedures are used during terminal decontamination.

Ultrasonic cleaner

Equipment that cleans instruments using ultrasonic waves.


Able to kill viruses.


Equipment that washes & decontaminates instruments after an operative procedure.

Woven wrappers

Also called linen or cloth wrappers, these are fabric cloths used to wrap clean, disinfected supplies in preparation for a sterilization process.

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