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Notes From the field: High-level disinfecting AND autoclaving?

Recently, I have noticed this issue during several of my mock OSHA inspections. Glutaraldehyde should only be used to disinfect heat-sensitive instruments. When the soaking time is long enough, most high-level disinfectants can achieve complete sterilization.

If an instrument has been manufactured to withstand heat, it should be autoclaved (sterilized)

Some physician offices are using the glutaraldehyde as a soaking solution, AND autoclaving the instrument.

This is over-kill. You do not need to high-level disinfect and sterilize an instrument.

If the office has an autoclave, the instrument should be cleaned by scrubbing with a detergent solution, not a high level disinfectant.

Always autoclave any instrument or device that enters a patient’s vascular system or other normally sterile areas of the body.

Keep in mind, glutaraldehyde requires substantial ventilation and can be toxic to skin and mucous membranes. If the practice does not have an autoclave and they are using glutaraldehyde as their disinfectant, the employer must create a plan for handling any spills with this toxic solution.

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