Cold Chemical Sterilization in Medicine

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  • 00:00 Sterilization
  • 1:30 Cold (Chemical) Sterilization
  • 2:42 Solutions and Use
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will discuss cold chemical sterilization, which instruments are suitable for this, and some important solution names that are used in medicine for it. After the video, be sure to check out the quiz questions.


You are probably well aware that inside of your gut live more microorganisms than cells in your body! And from that perspective alone, it would seem odd that people working in medicine are so concerned with using clean surgical instruments when performing surgery on the intestines or some other place.

Well, we are concerned because the introduction of the wrong kind of microorganism can kill a patient. This is precisely why we sterilize medical instruments, supplies, and even some equipment. Sterilization is the process of killing all organisms on inanimate objects.

Another lesson covers the way autoclaves and gas sterilization works but here, we're going to discuss cold (chemical) sterilization and the solutions used therein.

Cold (Chemical) Sterilization

Before I explain what cold sterilization is, I want to briefly go over the common alternative, the autoclave I just discussed. It's a device that uses steam under pressure, like a super-uncomfortable steam sauna for microbes, to kill every living thing placed inside it.

As you can understand, such an uncomfortable environment can also damage sensitive instruments, supplies, and equipment that cannot be placed under high heat or high pressure conditions. Thus there are alternatives to sterilization with an autoclave, namely, gas sterilization by ethylene oxide, covered in another lesson as well, and this lesson's cold chemical sterilization.

Cold (chemical) sterilization is the use of liquid chemical solutions to sterilize medical instruments. Not all items can be sterilized using liquid chemicals. To be effective, this method must be used on items that are relatively smooth, resistant to moisture, and exposed on all sides. This means the item that is placed inside the chemical sterilant must have a shape where the liquid sterilant can contact all of its surfaces at once. If a complex instrument is being placed into the solution it should be fully opened up or disassembled prior to sterilization.

Additionally, items placed in the cold sterilant must be clean and dry. This means all tissue, blood, pus, saliva, and the like have to be physically cleaned off of the item prior to being placed into the solution. All of that gory stuff is a really great way to insulate microorganisms from the sterilant. They are basically like shields around microorganisms because the chemical sterilant has a tough time penetrating through them.

The item should also be dry so that excess water doesn't dilute the chemical solution and make it an ineffective chemical sterilant. Just like you wouldn't dilute out your engine oil with water, you wouldn't want to dilute out the chemical sterilant either. Neither will do much good in either scenario.

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