CSSDs in hospitals and manufacturing units may use small or large automated or manual autoclaves to ensure absolute sterility of reusable or disposable surgical instruments. The process of autoclaving involves exposing the instrument or tool to steam at a high temperature of 120 degrees C for a defined duration in order to kill all types of microrganisms.
Autoclaves may not always be feasible as in the case of home treatment. In such cases sterilization bags are usually employed to hold items and the bag can be put in a microwave to effectively sterilize the item. Such bags are often used to sterilize tweezers, baby bottles and similar tools and instruments.
However, in regular hospitals with their own CSSDs and in manufacturing environments all tools and reusable instruments or needles and syringes are usually subject to autoclave. There may be other methods such as dry plasma irradiation or dry heat or cleaning and sterilization with ethylene dioxide but autoclaving with wet steam still holds its own as one of the most reliable method. How do staff members ensure that products so sterilized meet standards? This is done by use of various sterilization control systems serving as adjunct to autoclaving or other methods.
One of the simplest of methods is the use of an indicator tape that shows whether a specific temperature was reached when subjected to autoclaving, E-beam sterilization or gamma method. These tapes are also used on medical packaging as an indicator of the product having been sterilized.
Indicator strips change color when exposed to steam and temperature in the autoclaving process. By showing a pass/fail cut off these strips can be used as reliable indicators that the pack and its concents are sterile.
In some cases, staff in hospitals or manufacturing units resort to the use of biological indicators to monitor the sterilization process. Exposure to steam and heat may not be proof enough but the BI test is irrefutably reliable.
Another reliable method is the Bowie Dick test, a chemical indicator to check efficiency of autoclaves and other sterilizing equipments. Color change is an indicator of presence of air pockets during the sterilization cycle.
Large process autoclaving equipment may sterilize tools and instruments in bulk or may tackle only a few products but there is no way to look inside the autoclave or visually verify whether the sterilization process has been completed. Use of these autoclaving accessories sourced from supplier of the finest medical packaging and accessory products helps quality control staff in CSSD and manufacturing units make absolutely sure about the sterilization process.
This quality control process is further helped by the use of instrument tags and documentation labels that help easy identification and allow traceability.
Sterilization is an important process to assure safety of patients and to prevent infection. Using the right process like autoclaving does not, in itself, guarantee that it is 100% safe or complete. Use of indicators and control systems greatly helps assure that it has been done right and the product in question is 100% sterile and safe for use.