Definitions of terms

The wound care panel convened in Toronto earlier this year by Toronto-based Dumex Medical Surgical Products Ltd. used the following definitions of commonly used terms for purposes of its discussion:

Aseptic technique: the purposeful prevention of the transfer of infection from one person to another by keeping the microbial count to an irreducible minimum.

Clean: containing no foreign material or debris.

Clean dressing: dressing that is not sterile but is free of environmental contaminants, such as water damage, dust, pest and rodent contaminants, and gross soiling.

Contaminated: containing bacteria, other microorganisms, or foreign material.

Hand washing: the cornerstone of any infection-control program. Hand washing should be of sufficient duration to remove the transient microbial flora (10 seconds of soap and friction, followed by rinsing with running water).

No-touch technique: method of changing surface dressings without touching the wound or the surface of any dressing that may be in contact with the wound. Adherent dressings should be grasped by the corner and removed slowly, whereas gauze dressings can be pinched in the center and lifted off.

Nonsterile: refers either to an item that has not been put through a sterilization procedure, or to an item that no longer retains its sterile integrity due to shelf-life expiration, exposure to extreme temperature, humidity, moisture, dust, lint, or other contaminants.

Sterile: the absence of all microbes, including spores. The four sterilization processes that are commonly used in manufacturing and in health care institutions today include steam, dry heat, ethylene oxide gas, and gas plasma.

Sterilized: refers to an item that has undergone a sterilization process but that has not been packaged so as to guarantee its sterility over time.

Universal precautions: when blood-body fluid precautions are consistently used for all patients, irrespective of diagnosis.