Difference between Sterile and Aseptic technique?

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    This is a question on my operating room prep sheet and I'm a little confused!
  2. 12 Comments so far...

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    sterile means just that "sterile", aseptic means "clean"~~hope that helps!
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    Sterile is the absence of ALL microbs, Aseptic is just the absense of disease produceing microbs.
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    Well "sterile" means absence of all microorganisms. Nothing in it. Whether good or bad.

    While "aseptic" means clean technique or removing pathogens.

    There is another term called "sanitary" meaning to reduce pathogens into a level wherein they cannot cause diseases.
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    sterile - absence of ALL microorganisms, both good and bad.
    aseptic - also known as clean technique (such as washing hands, using clean [not sterile] gloves)
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    Does anyone have a source that says aseptic means clean? My Lewis text says they are the same and my Taber's dictionary says, "[in aseptic technique] all instruments used are sterilized, physicians and nurses wear caps, shoe coverings, sterile gowns and gloves." Clean technique is what we use when changing a stoma pouch - nothing sterile about it.
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    Quote from Matt799
    Does anyone have a source that says aseptic means clean? My Lewis text says they are the same and my Taber's dictionary says, "[in aseptic technique] all instruments used are sterilized, physicians and nurses wear caps, shoe coverings, sterile gowns and gloves." Clean technique is what we use when changing a stoma pouch - nothing sterile about it.
    It's both. Aseptic technique is used to reduce the chance of contamination from pathogens.

    Asepsis is a broad term that has other more specific categories. There is surgical asepsis (sterile) and medical asepsis (clean).

    You apply the principles of asepsis in every clinical setting. For example, washing your hands is imperative to maintaining aseptic technique before a clean or sterile procedure, but washing your hands does not mean they are sterile. Rather, washing your hands reduces the likelihood of contamination from pathogens (the purpose of aseptic technique).

    Here is a link that might help you: Aseptic Technique (Encyclopedia of Nursing & Allied Health) - eNotes.com
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    Quote from Ashley, PICU RN
    It's both. Aseptic technique is used to reduce the chance of contamination from pathogens. Asepsis is a broad term that has other more specific categories. There is surgical asepsis (sterile) and medical asepsis (clean).You apply the principles of asepsis in every clinical setting. For example, washing your hands is imperative to maintaining aseptic technique before a clean or sterile procedure, but washing your hands does not mean they are sterile. Rather, washing your hands reduces the likelihood of contamination from pathogens (the purpose of aseptic technique). Here is a link that might help you: Aseptic Technique (Encyclopedia of Nursing & Allied Health) - eNotes.com
    This seems more a matter of semantics than anything else. I just want to add that washing your hands is a PART of being sterile but just because you wash your hands doesn't make your procedure sterile. But it sounds like you are saying washing hands qualifies us for "medical asepsis." Truly sterile environments - like the half dozen OR experiences I've done this year - are so vastly different from what we call "medical asepsis" that I would argue they need different names. Probably just the English major in me. The major issue is as we study for NCLEX, Kaplan is calling a clean-catch an "aseptic technique." Same with placing an IV, even though neither technique even requires sterile gloves. So where do we draw the line? Is medical asepsis any procedure that requires you to be conscious of microbes? See what I mean? Asepsis tends to lose its meaning in practice. Thats why I like my Microbiology text and Lewis MedSurg book - they don't make this distinction. It's either sterile/asepsis or it's clean.
    GrnTea likes this.
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    For the purpose of the NCLEX, I wouldn't over think it. You're unlikely to get a question so basic such as "Which procedure requires aseptic technique?" More likely your question would be worded: "The nurse is performing an intermittent catheterization for a urine culture. Which supplies are needed?" And one of your choices will include sterile gloves.

    But again, it's highly unlikely that, out of the vast pool of NCLEX questions, you'll even get one where the definition of asepsis is important. Don't spend much time thinking about it.
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    There was a question on my last exam:

    The OR scrub nurse is practicing aseptic technique when she:

    A. wears waterproof booties over her shoes
    B. performs the surgical scrub before entering the OR
    C. dons personal protective equipment
    D. changes her gloves after touching the surgeon on the upper arm

    I chose B. The answer was D. I talked with my instructor about it and said I know that D is sterile technique but the question said aseptic. We always learned there was a difference - e.g. pulling a foley is aseptic technique and inserting one is sterile technique. Made me mad because I missed those points just because I guess I overthought it and was expecting it to be a trick when it wasn't. Just thought I'd add that here because I've been ticked off about it for a few weeks now


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