Statement from the Academy and ASCRS Regarding the Joint Commission's Clarification of its Position on Sterilization Practices

Recently, there has been concern and confusion about the interpretation of standards and survey process regarding sterilization in ophthalmic facilities.  Over the past year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (Academy) and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), along with the Outpatient Ophthalmic Surgical Society, have discussed the concerns of ophthalmic surgery centers with the Joint Commission.  The new position statement, released by the Joint Commission on June 15, 2009, clarifies the interpretation of standards regarding steam sterilization.   

Summary of Position Statement

The Joint Commission announced a refocusing of its survey efforts on all of the critical processes involved in sterilization, not just the selection of the sterilization cycle or method.  If the process is considered complete and performed well, then the Joint Commission will consider it effective.  Thus, the use of a shorter steam sterilization process for unwrapped instruments will no longer be considered "ineffective," without considering all of the aspects of the sterilization process. Joint Commission surveyors will observe processes of cleaning, sterilization, and transportation of instruments, and ask for manufacturers' instructions. 

Recommendations for Ophthalmic Surgery Centers

Ophthalmic surgery centers under the purview of the Joint Commission should be familiar with the Position Statement on Steam Sterilization as well as the Centers for Disease Control/Hospital Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities.

In addition, it is recommended that attention be paid to the following: