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The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) is reporting that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has told its state survey agency directors to abandon the term "flash sterilization" in favor of immediate-use steam sterilization (IUSS), as an acknowledgment of the infection prevention and control community’s concern over the use of the term “flash” as part of decontamination and sterilization processes.
In an Aug. 29, 2014, memo, CMS notes that organizations with expertise in infection control-including AAMI, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, and the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management-have advocated against the term “flash,” as it does not properly communicate the time and number of steps it takes to ensure proper sterilization.
For years, organizations used “flash” to describe sterilization cycles for instruments and devices that were not packaged in preparation for sterilization; were subject to minimal drying time; and were used immediately. However, CMS recorded unsafe practices and adverse events in healthcare facilities, including surgical site infections, when the term “flash” sterilization was used.
The new memo cites a 2011 position paper from AAMI and six other organizations that endorsed the use of IUSS over “flash” sterilization. The organizations argued that the use of “flash” had led to some abuses, and that “immediate use” would add some clarity. The paper defined immediate use as “the shortest possible time between a sterilized item’s removal from the sterilizer and its aseptic transfer to the field.” The paper also emphasized that an instrument has to undergo proper decontamination and cleaning before IUSS.