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(ster″ĭ-lĭ-zā′shŏn) [ sterilize] 1. Complete removal or destruction of microorganisms in an object. 2. The act of sterilizing or state of being sterilized. Sterilization can be accomplished by the surgical removal of the testes or ovaries (castration), inactivation by irradiation, or by tying off or removing a portion of the reproductive ducts (ductus deferens or uterine tubes). SEE: salpingectomy; vasectomy.

cold s. Immersion of heat-sensitive instruments into microbicidal fluids (such as glutaraldehyde, orthophthalaldehyde, or concentrated hydrogen peroxide) to rid them of bacteria, fungi, mycobacteria, or viruses.

dry heat s. The sterilization of instruments in an oven to raise their surface temperature high enough and long enough to kill any microorganisms.

e-beam s. Electron beam s.

electron beam s. Sterilization in which objects are placed into a cloud of electrically charged plasma generated by directing electrons into a container filled with gas, such as helium. SYN: e-beam s.

flash s. Steam-thermal sterilization in which instruments that are difficult to obtain or replace are placed in superheated (270°F, [145°C]) steam for 3 to 10 min.

image The Association of Operating Room Nurses cautions that this procedure should only be used when there is an urgent need for a particular operating instrument that otherwise cannot be met.

fractional s. Sterilization in which heating is done at intervals so that spores can develop into vegetative bacteria and be destroyed. SYN: intermittent s.

gas s. Exposure to gases such as formaldehyde or ethylene oxide (ETO) that destroy microorganisms.

image Because ethylene oxide is toxic if it is inhaled, tools sterilized in ETO must be aerated according to OSHA standards.

hydrogen peroxide gas plasma s. Cold sterilization by concentrated, vaporized hydrogen peroxide. It can be used to decontaminate objects exposed to bacteria, fungi, prions, and viruses.

intermittent s. Fractional s.

involuntary s. Any procedure that renders a legally incompetent person permanently infertile. It is performed only under court order, and only when other less drastic means of preventing unwanted procreation have failed.

laparoscopic s. Sterilization by a laparoscope to gain access to the fallopian tubes so they can be banded, clipped, or electrocoagulated.

steam-thermal s. Sterilization by exposure of microorganisms to flowing steam or pressurized steam. There are three types of steam-thermal sterilization: gravity methods, in which ambient air in the sterilization chamber is gradually displaced by steam; prevacuum, in which air in the chamber is mechanically removed; and flash sterilization.


(stĕr′ĭ-līz) [L. sterilis, barren] 1. To free from microorganisms. 2. To make incapable of reproduction.


(ster′ĭ-lī″zĕr) An oven or appliance for sterilizing.


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