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Many Different Techniques of Medical Instrument Sterilization

Instrument sterilization is a crucial matter for every laboratory, clinic and hospital. Unless the equipment used is sterilized every so often, health facilities will not be allowed to stay in operation. Contrary to popular belief, there are many different methods of sterilizing medical equipment. Below is a basic look at the many different techniques used to sterilize medical equipment by many laboratories such as Gibraltar Labs.

Sterilization via Autoclave

An autoclave is a machine of varying size. It uses high heat and pressure and steam to sterilize medical equipment. The time needed for sterilization depends on the temperature achieved by the autoclave and the configuration of the materials to be sterilized. The critical factor is that the material must have an unobstructed path to the steam.

Sterilization via Steam

This type of sterilization is rather common in health facilities and is used by the manufacturers of orthopedic instruments and trays to validate their instructions for use. Equipment is put into the main chamber and steam is directed towards the medical equipment. The high heat and steam destroy many organisms and ensure that the instrument is left clean and sterilized.

Sterilization via Flash

This technique is similar to using steam for sterilization, but has one principle difference. Flash sterilizing an object is significantly faster than sterilizing via steam or many other methods.

Sterilization via Dry Heat

Sterilizing medical equipment via dry heat is an effective method of sterilizing medical equipment. Dry heat is directed towards the medical equipment and any microorganisms are destroyed. This is because the high heat coagulates blood proteins and ensures that microorganisms are destroyed.

Sterilization via Moist Heat

This was one of the earliest techniques of sterilization. Hot air (with water vapor) is directed towards medical instruments, denaturing many microorganisms in the process. This ensures that any bacteria or microbe growing on the instrument is destroyed.

Sterilization via Radiation

Radiation, especially gamma radiation, is used to sterilize medical equipment. Gamma radiation ensures that many different types of microbes are destroyed. Interestingly, radiation is always used to sterilize scalpels and many other metallic medical instruments.

As evident, there are many methods of sterilizing medical equipment. Although not every technique is employed by any hospital, many of the above techniques are still used to sterilize medical equipment.  In conclusion, patients can rest assured that the equipment used to maintain their health is clean, up to the standard and perfect for use in or on their body.

Contributed By: This article was contributed by Gibraltar Labs to educate patients about the various sterilization techniques used in the medical and health industry today.

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Medical Device Sterilization through Steam Sterilization

Proper and effective medical device sterilization is important for every medical facility. Sterilization means the elimination and destruction of all types of microbial organisms. The sterilization method used may vary from one type of medical equipment to another.  It depends on the different disinfecting and handling requirements of the equipment in question.

It is often the case that sterilization in medical facilities is done using steam under pressure. At times, gaseous chemicals or liquids are also used instead of steam.  This method of sterilization is known as steam sterilization.  This involves heating the instruments inside an autoclave, which contains steam under pressure.

Usually a pressure of 15 psi is maintained. This helps reach and maintain a minimum temperature of 121°C. This use of pressurized steam at very high temperatures helps eradicate every microbial cell present in the chamber. Even spores that are believed to be insensitive to heat are often destroyed.

Effective steam sterilization is not that easy to perform when performing medical device sterilization. You need to make sure proper measures are taken during the sterilization method. Several critical factors are involved that deduce the effectiveness of the procedure. They include:

  • Maintaining the right temperature (a high temperature)
  • Proper saturation of heat
  • Complete absence of heat in the beginning

You can find several types of autoclaves in the market nowadays that can easily hold every type of medical equipment present. A few of them make use of exhaust valves which get activated through steam. They are designed in such a manner that they remain open until they react to steam, and then close.

Besides this, you can also find pre-vacuum sterilizers. They incorporate a pre-cycle vacuum which helps them bring about the removal process of air before the steam is introduced to the system. They are designed to address the problem that is created when air is trapped in the system during the process of steam sterilization.

The equipment that is needed to be sterilized is placed physically in an instrument tray, which is also known as a sterilization tray. They possess air removal and entrance characteristics, but not all of them are equipped for this purpose.

The quantity of equipments and devices that a sterilization/instrument tray can hold depends on its design. It is important that all medical equipment and devices that are directly involved in surgical procedures are washed and placed in the sterilization/instrument tray after they are steam sterilized.