Sterilization is important because without it, it leads to deadly bacterial infections. Sterilization is used to kill off viruses, fungi and bacteria and it is achieved through heat, high pressure and chemicals and is important for preventing health care associated infections. Sterilization is all about the use of physical or chemical procedures to destroy microbial life with bacterial spores being the most resistant of all living organisms.
In the medical industry, failure to properly sterilize medical equipment carries serious health risks and infection. The level of sterilization will depend on what the object is used for, but whatever the object is, proper cleaning must precede before the sterilization.
Sterilization Avoids Person-to-Person Transmission
Millions of surgical procedures are being performed and all these procedures will inevitably involve contact between surgical instruments and the patient’s sterile tissue. There is always the risk of the introduction of pathogenic microbes, which can lead to infection. Not sterilizing the equipment adequately will lead to person-to-person transmission.
Sterilization through the use of disinfectants and sterilization is absolutely critical if you want to ensure that medical and surgical instruments don’t transmit infectious pathogens. Failure to comply to guidelines surrounding sterilization has led to many outbreaks of infection.
Let’s look at the different sterilization methods:
- Steam Autoclave – the oldest and also the safest method of sterilization where the steam reaches 121-138°C or 250-300°F in the pressure chamber at 15 P.S.I. The sterilization period can range from 10-60 minutes. Configurable cycles allow the user to tailor cycles for liquid or hard items, wrapped items and glassware. With steam autoclaves, microorganisms are killed by heat, and this is speeded up with moisture. Steam isn’t sufficient on its own for sterilization, and pressure greater than atmospheric is required so as to increase the temperature of steam for thermal destruction of microbial life. The Steam autoclave is used mostly for surgical instruments, but it isn’t suited for heat sensitive materials and instruments.
- Common Chemical Sterilization – Ethylene Oxide Gas – an effective, low temperature chemical sterilization method, taking longer than steam sterilization. It takes in the region of 16-18 hours for the completion of a cycle, with temperatures reaching in the 50-60°C range. Ethylene oxide is used to sterilize items that are heat- and moisture sensitive and kills microorganisms and spores. Items sterilized this way need to be aerated. Aeration is needed to make sterilized items safe for patient use. Disadvantages with Ethylene Oxide Gas is that toxic residues can remain on sterilized items, posing health hazards.
Today, the most popular method of low temperature sterilization is done by a Plasma Sterilizer and the cycle is done in less than an hour and it is perfectly safe.
Sterilization means Life
Most medical and surgical devices may well be made of materials that are heat stable and can handle steam sterilization but today there are medical devices made of materials that require low-temperature sterilization. The most popular method of low temperature sterilization is done by a Plasma Sterilizer and the cycle is done in less than an hour and it is perfectly safe. A number of low-temperature sterilization systems have been developed to sterilize these medical devices and ensure that all human- and animal life benefit from no infection and high survival rates from surgery.