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Autoclaving – A Simple yet Crucial Process

An autoclave is one of the most widely used machines used in the sterilization of medical devices. In general, the process of autoclaving involves high heat and pressure. However, too few people know how one of the most commonly used machines in medical history works. Here is a closer look at how they work.

Removing the Air from Within

Before sterilization can actually take place, all the air from within the machine has to be removed. Air is one of the biggest barriers to efficient sterilization. If every trace of air is not removed, the sterilization of medical devices will be incomplete and must be done again.

In fact, if air was used for sterilization, it would take hot air over 2 hours, at a temperature of 160 °C, just to properly sterilize the equipment within. However, if all the air was removed and streams of steam were used (at roughly 130°C), the autoclaving process would only take 2 minutes.

To remove all the air from an autoclave, a vacuum pump is used to evacuate the main chamber of every trace of air. Alternatively, steam displacement can also be used. This is when jets of steam are used to displace air out of the main chamber.

The Use of High Heat and Water

The use of water and high heat forms the core of autoclaving. Temperatures of over 130°C are applied to streams of water in order to convert them into jets of steam. When these jets of steam are directed towards medical equipment, it takes approximately 2 minutes for the sterilization of medical devices to be complete.

The Use of High Pressure

High pressures are a must when it comes to sterilization in an autoclave. Without the use of high pressures, it would take a long time for the liquid (water) in the machine to convert into a gas (steam). In order to make the process of sterilization go faster (within 2 minutes), it is essential that the water is subjected not only to high temperature, but high pressure as well.

Autoclaving is a process that is of the utmost importance, especially in the medical field. It fulfills the speed and sterility requirements of medical experts everywhere. Interestingly, it is also increasingly being used in quality assurance checks.

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What You Need to Know About Autoclaves

Doctors, dentists, and surgeons have to routinely deal with the cleanliness of their medical instruments. After all, it directly affects the health and safety of patients. Failure to sterilize medical equipment can lead to viral infections among the patients. Therefore, medical professionals ensure that their main focus remains on the proper sterilization of such equipment.

Though the main purpose of equipment sterilization is to eliminate spores and microbes, the same purpose can be achieved by simply boiling the medical instruments in normal water at moderate temperature. However, specific sterilization methods have been proven more effective as well as reliable. Autoclaving is one such method of sterilization among various other methods.

As a professional in your own industry, you should get maximum knowledge to confirm if autoclaving is the most appropriate method of sterilization for your instruments.

Have a look below to know more about autoclaving:

Application

An autoclave is a device that withstands high temperatures and pressure; it uses saturated steam to sterilize materials effectively. Autoclaves are mainly used to indicate whether the pressure and heat have reached their effective levels or not.

Professionals from various industries use autoclaves to sterilize their equipment. For instance, most surgical instruments are sterilized with autoclaves. Health care costs are kept low because expensive instruments used on patients in the hospital can be safely cleaned and reprocessed through the autoclave many times. They are also used in chemical industries to facilitate chemical reactions in which high pressure is required. Similarly, the same method of equipment sterilization is used in the medical industry.

Functionality

An autoclave will be able to sterilize instruments effectively if its internal temperature reaches two-hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit. This also depends on the level of concentration of bacteria. If an instrument has higher level of bacteria, then it simply means that the temperature needs to be set higher than usual. This is important in order to decontaminate the instruments.

Safety Considerations and Warning

Although using autoclaves can ensure that there is no harm in reusing the same equipment, there are some safety considerations that you must take before going for such sterilization. When operating autoclaves, you can wear lab coats, closed shoes, gloves, and eye protection. This will not only save you from anything unfavorable, it will help you resist heat as well.

Another important guideline is to make sure if there is no pressure in the autoclave when you open it after using it. This will help you prevent any steam burn. Therefore, you should give the sterilized materials at least ten minutes to remove heat before handling it.