An steam sterilizer (autoclave) is a device that uses steam to sterilize equipment and other objects. This means that all bacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores are destroyed. Autoclaves work by allowing steam to enter and maintaining extremely high pressure for at least 15 minutes. Because damp heat is used, heat-labile products (such as some plastics) cannot be sterilized or they will melt.
Disinfection destroys all the micro-organisms present in a given environment apart from spores: an object that has been disinfected properly may still transmit a pathogenic micro-organism. Sterilization, on the other hand, is the complete elimination of all micro-organisms including spores.
Heat is the best and most used sterilization agent and pressurized, saturated water vapor is the most efficient method of heat transmission. That is why steam sterilization reduces the time and the temperature needed for the treatment: at 134℃ an exposure of only 4 minutes is sufficient, at 121℃ a time of 15 minutes is enough. In addition, steam sterilization creates no toxic or dangerous residues on objects and does not damage instruments (provided that they can withstand the temperatures reached).
What autoclave you should use is determined by the type of instruments that you sterilise. If you sterilise Hollow Load Type A & B instruments, you will need an autoclave capable of running a Type B Cycle. These autoclave are usually called Class B sterilizers.Typical users of Class B autoclaves include:
If you only sterilize unwrapped Non Hollow instruments, you only need an autoclave capable of running Class N Cycles. These autoclaves are usually called Class N Sterilisers.
Hollow Load Type A: An object whose ratio of length of cavity to diameter is greater than 5.
Hollow Load Type B: An object whose ratio of length of cavity to diameter is greater than 1 and less than 5.
Non Hollow Instruments (Solid Instruments): An object whose ratio of length of cavity to diameter is less than 1.
Due acknowledgement is given to EN 13060:2004.
Many sizes of lab sterilizers are available as either top- or front-loading; which suits you best? Top loaders conserve space, but can be cumbersome if you process heavy loads. Front loaders can’t process as large a load at comparable volume, but pose less of a risk of strain or repetitive injury to technicians who handle many loads each day.
Class B autoclave used for sterilizing all objects (solid instruments, porous objects and A and B hollow objects, both packaged and un-packaged);
Class N autoclave used for sterilizing only un-packaged solid instruments;
Class S autoclave used for sterilizing un-packaged solid instruments plus one other of the types indicated for cycle B (to be specified by the maker).
Class B autoclaves are the autoclaves that can carry out cycle B and thus can sterilize any kind of object.
This is the applicable European standard, relating to small steam sterilizers. In most cases (Dental, Medical, Tattoo, Piercing, Podiatry, Veterinary, laboratory) this standard applies at reprocessing of reusable medical and surgical instruments and equipment, and maintenance of the associated environment.
All documents relating to sterilisation should be retained and kept in the steri room. Records to be kept include: Tests performed, cycle records (print outs), training records, maintenance records, validation certificate.
Annual validation negates the need for any further bio tests to be carried out. If your autoclave is not being validated, we suggest monthly bio tests should be carried out.
European standard states that packing items is done to provide an effective barrier against potential contamination and maintain sterility. Unpacked items should be used immediately, or cleaned and sterilised again before use. Packed items can be stored in a clean, dry place and will remain sterile until they are used.
When using standard self - sealing pouches, they can be placed paper side up on the tray (when there are only a few - no overlapping) or up on their side with paper to paper, plastic to plastic. A "pack rack" is the best way to stack bags in the autoclave.
Different loads call for different cycles in order to assure sterilization or destruction. What roles will your lab autoclave need to fulfill? If you primarily process growth media, then you’ll want a rapid cooling system to prevent the media from becoming “overcooked.” Those processing glassware, instruments, or porous loads benefit from vacuum and pulsed freesteaming cycles, which assure good steam penetration and dry finished loads. An autoclave primarily used for discard loads and laboratory waste greatly benefits from an exhaust filtration system and thermal probes for quality assurance. And if you plan to use your lab sterilizer for many tasks, expanded memory modules make it easy to design custom cycles for each task and run them with “one-touch” convenience.
This is used to test the efficacy of the air removal system and that the hydraulic system is perfectly air-tight. The test is defined according to EN 13060, which lies down that there must be a cycle that carries out this test automatically on all autoclaves that have a vacuum phase for removing air. For this test at least the vacuum phase is carried out as in the highest performing cycle offered by the machine, then the chamber is kept in isolation for a certain length of time and the increase in pressure due to any re-entry of air is checked to make sure it is lower than a pre-defined value.
Its purpose is to check the degree of steam penetration in the case of hollow objects and the efficacy of the air removal system. The test uses a Teflon tube open at one end only (length 1.5 m, internal diameter 2 mm), ending with a Teflon capsule, containing a chemical process indicator. EN 13060 requires for purposes of approval the employment of this apparatus to test cycles for sterilizing hollow load A (for example B cycles). The test is positive if the chemical indicator changes colour in line with the information given by the producer.
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