Cleaning & disinfection, what's the difference?



What's the difference between cleaning and disinfection?




The following article has been provided by Vitalograph and written by Bernard Garbe


The term “cleaning” particularly relates to the removal of proteinaceous accumulations during the removal of visible particulate contamination. Cleaning may be as simple as wiping over surfaces but may involve washing and mechanical removal of surface particulates.

The measuring elements of flow sensing type spirometers need more frequent cleaning than volume displacement spirometers due to the long breathing tube, which increases the distance from the test subject to the sensor. The deposition of saliva and other bodily fluids is directly proportional to the distance from the mouth, most deposition occurs within a few centimetres of the mouth with corresponding decrease of deposition further away from the mouth. A high proportion of deposition occurs within the mouthpiece in addition to the major risk from the saliva on the outside of the mouthpiece.

Once cleaning has been completed, some or all parts of medical devices may require disinfection. “Disinfection” is a process aimed at reducing the survival rate of micro-organisms, for example by immersing the item in a disinfecting solution.

For spirometers, all surfaces need to be cleaned. Parts of the device that might carry contamination, such as flowheads, may also be disinfected, according to your facility’s procedures for hygiene.

In the event of a contamination that cannot be eliminated with the procedures and facilities available the contaminated components should be removed and replaced. This should be a consideration in the facility’s risk assessment and is a special consideration for mass screening.

In no circumstances should contaminated devices be posted to a service facility. If the user is uncertain what to do the device should be isolated, bagged and labelled while advice is sought. Healthcare facilities should ensure that a risk assessment is carried out to assess the risks presented to both operator and subject and an action plan devised to minimise the chance of cross infection occurring, particularly where known infectious or immuno-deficient subjects are being tested. An assessment should be made of methods of decontamination available to the operator and their effectiveness against potential risks - a table of materials used in the spirometer device is essential to enable this. In cases of high risk where no effective disinfection method is available the contaminated parts should be removed and disposed of safely.