Surgical Asepsis: Definition, Technique & Examples

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  • 0:00 What is Surgical Asepsis?
  • 0:50 When is Surgical…
  • 1:51 Components of Surgical Asepsis
  • 3:17 Sterile Techniques
  • 4:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rachel Torrens
An operation is about to begin. Necessary components include: surgeon, nurses, patient, instruments, and... surgical asepsis! In this lesson, learn about the importance of maintaining surgical asepsis during a medical procedure.

What Is Surgical Asepsis?

Is your house clean? Understandably, you may hesitate when answering this question. When you begin to think about it, 'clean' is a very relative term. There are all sorts of clean: 'My house is tidy, so I wouldn't be embarrassed if guests dropped by' is different from 'My floors are so clean, you can eat off of them.'

Well, the same is true in the medical world; there are several types of clean. In this lesson, we are going to describe the cleanest possible clean, or surgical asepsis. Surgical asepsis is ensuring an environment is completely free from all microorganisms. Why would this be important? Because these microorganisms, if present in the environment, could lead to an infection in the patient.

When Is Surgical Asepsis Practiced?

Surgical asepsis is practiced in many fields of medicine, but always with the same purpose of preventing infection. Usually, surgical asepsis is used when a foreign object is being introduced into a patient's body, thereby opening a possible route of transmission for an infectious agent. For example, a patient needs to have a urinary catheter. A catheter is inserted into the patient's bladder using surgical asepsis; otherwise, the patient may develop a urinary tract infection.

Other procedures, such as wound dressing changes or certain IV therapies, also require surgical asepsis because there is a direct opening between the outside world and the patient's bloodstream. Lastly, and most obviously, surgical asepsis is used in surgical procedures. However, this too can range from open heart surgery in an operating room to excision of a skin cancer in a dermatologist's office.

Components of Surgical Asepsis

In order for surgical asepsis to be achieved, all the components involved in the procedure - tools, work area, and workers - must be free of all microorganisms. First, equipment to be used in the procedure must be sterilized. This is accomplished by physical or chemical sterilization.

Equipment is packaged with a date of sterilization. When it is time to open the package, the healthcare worker must inspect the package to make sure it is intact. Any evidence of moisture or a break in the seal means the instrument is considered unsterile. It is discarded and another is used.

Next, a sterile field must be created, which is a work area that is free of all microorganisms. To create a sterile field, a sterile drape is placed over a tray, upon which sterile instruments may be dropped. Also, the patient is covered with a sterile drape to create an aseptic field in which the healthcare providers may work.

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