Updated: Sep 3, 2022
What is aseptic technique? Bacteria are everywhere, and some are good for us while others are harmful. Bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that cause disease are called pathogens. To protect patients from harmful bacteria and other pathogens during medical procedures, healthcare providers use aseptic technique. Aseptic technique means using practices and procedures to prevent contamination from pathogens. It involves applying the strictest rules to minimize the risk of infection. Healthcare workers use aseptic technique in surgery rooms, clinics, outpatient care centers, and other health care settings.
What is aseptic technique used for? Following aseptic technique helps prevent the spread of pathogens that cause infection. Healthcare professionals commonly use aseptic technique when they’re:
handling surgery equipment
helping with a baby’s birth by vaginal delivery
handling dialysis catheters
inserting a chest tube
inserting a urinary catheter
inserting central intravenous (IV) or arterial lines
inserting other draining devices
performing various surgical techniques
Aseptic technique types According to The Joint Commission, there are four chief aspects of the aseptic technique: barriers, patient equipment and preparation, environmental controls, and contact guidelines. Each plays an important role in infection prevention during a medical procedure. Barriers Barriers protect the patient from the transfer of pathogens from a healthcare worker, from the environment, or from both. Some barriers used in aseptic technique include:
masks for the patient and healthcare provider
Sterile barriers are those that have not touched a contaminated surface. They’re specially packaged and cleaned items. Healthcare workers put them on or use them in specific ways that minimize exposure to germs. Patient and Equipment Preparation Healthcare providers also use sterile equipment and sterile instruments. To further protect the patient, they apply cleansing and bacteria-killing preparations to the patient’s skin before a procedure. Environmental controls Maintaining a sterile environment requires keeping doors closed during an operation. Only necessary health personnel should be at the procedure. The more people present, the more opportunities for harmful bacteria to cause contamination. Contact guidelines Once healthcare providers have on sterile barriers, they should only touch other sterile items. They should avoid touching nonsterile items at all costs. A common procedure that carries a risk for infection is inserting a urinary catheter. These catheters drain urine from the bladder and are associated with catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs). When healthcare providers insert a catheter, they demonstrate all four aseptic techniques in action:
Barriers: They wear sterile gloves.
Patient and equipment preparation: They open sterile packaging that contains the sterile catheter. They prepare the patient’s skin with a special solution.
Environmental controls: Only one or two providers and the patient are in the room.
Contact guidelines: Healthcare providers take great care not to touch any nonsterile surface with the hand that advances the catheter into the patient’s urethra.
If even one part of the aseptic technique is missed during catheter insertion, the patient can easily get an infection.
Aseptic technique vs. clean technique Keeping the environment as clean as possible is always important in preventing infections. However, some situations call for aseptic technique while others call for clean techniques. Healthcare providers learn both aseptic and clean techniques as part of their training. The goal of the aseptic technique is to eliminate germs entirely. The goal of the clean technique is to reduce the number of germs whenever possible. Clean techniques are important for all healthcare providers and their patients because they prevent infections every day. Examples of clean techniques include washing hands and putting on clean gloves when needed. Healthcare providers keep a patient’s surroundings as clean as possible, but they aren’t using sterile items or aseptic technique. Healthcare professionals commonly use clean techniques when they’re:
giving an injection
emptying a urinary catheter drainage bag
giving a bed bath
inserting a peripheral IV (an IV in a smaller vein)
removing a peripheral IV
removing a urinary catheter