Steam sterilization contributes significantly to the cleanliness and safety of medical equipment

10/01/2021

The human body is susceptible to catching infections, and when the body interacts with infection, it has many adverse effects. In the medical industry, health-associated infections (HAIs) are a constant concern. Yearly, it impacts 1.7 million patients and ultimately increases the death rate approx 99,000. The higher risk of infection is a patient's contact with other patients' disease, or the medical equipment is dangerous in hospital. Therefore, it is necessary to sterilize all medical equipment and ensure healthy treatment all the way. There are many sterilization processes adopting hospitals, and steam sterilization are one of them.

Sterilization can overcome the spread of infection in patients. That is why it is comprehensive to clean the medical equipment before use. 

Disinfection vs. Sterilization

Disinfection refers to the removal of all pathogenic microbes except bacteria spores, mainly on inanimate surfaces. In COVID-19, disinfection of surfaces, doorknobs, handles, and all public places in contact with humans are very common; it helps to overspread the virus. There are many disinfected products, and you can find them in flu season, like the COVID pandemic. 

On the other hand, sterilization refers to the process of eliminating bacteria or other microbes. They are different functions and techniques, but the primary focus is to protect the environment and humans. 

Sometimes these two terminologies indicate the same meaning, but they are not the same in functionality or properties. For example, disinfections can kill the microorganism, but it is not that strong to also target harmful bacterias. These harmful bacteria can cause infection, and hospitals cannot rely on this process. Therefore, it is good if both methods get rid of any bacteria according to health-associated infection to keep the environment safe and clean. Sterilization mainly works to clean medical equipment to reuse for other patients. 

Steam Sterilization For Cleaning Medical Equipment

Steam sterilizer is one of the prevalent thermos methods to clean the medical equipment to reuse it. It is carried out in an autoclave and is successful owing to the extreme temps involved. Steam sterilization has four phases: steam, pressure, temperature, and time. All microbes, particularly viruses and bacteria, can quickly kill by integrating the four components. Usually, the steam sterilization process initiate at one or two temperatures: 250 degrees Fahrenheit or 270 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The time varies in steam sterilization according to the material of medical equipment such as metal, plastic, or rubber. It does not matter if the equipment is wrapped or unwrapped. Steam sterilization works for all. For example, steam sterilization begins with eliminating air in an autoclave, which creates a pressured atmosphere. Further, with the help of mixed temperature, pressure, and steam, microorganisms can kill, which causes denaturation of enzymes and proteins and irrevocable coagulation. 

All the hospital and doctors' equipment can be sterilized, such as surgical forceps, stethoscopes, scalpels, and whatever else that might be reprocessed inpatient treatments. Although single-use products and devices are supposed to be disposed of with ordinary medical waste, they do not require sterilizing. Since many of these items can't resist the intense pressure and temperature required for steam sterilization, it's preferable for patients and medical personnel to throw them away after usage. 

Condition to process Steam Sterilization

Steam sterilization procedure in healthcare institutions offers several advantages: exceptionally minimal price, cleanliness, and effectiveness. To induce steam sterilization, the materials to be sterilized are subjected to saturated steam under pressure. Thus, conditioning, exposure, and exhaust are the three steps of a steam sterilization cycle. 

Conditioning takes place at the start of the cycle. The load is heated to the appropriate sterilizing temperature after air is evacuated from the container using gravity displacement or Dynamic Air Removal techniques.

When the container and load have attained the proper temperature for sterilization, exposure starts following the conditioning phase. The materials in the load are exposed to steam for a certain amount of time at a predetermined temperature. Exposure time and temperatures should be adjusted according to the equipment manufacturer's instructions and current regulations and guidelines.

The final stage in the sterilization cycle is exhaust, which involves removing the steam from the container and releasing the pressure within. The cool-down or rinsing phase is another name for it. A vacuum is generated during this stage to eliminate the steam and aid in drying the load.

Other Method of Sterilization of medical equipment

Although steam sterilization is the most frequent method of medical sterilization, it is not the only one. EtO gas sterilization is a type of medical sterilization that uses a colorless, toxic gas instead of utilizing steam that can be lethal if not handled properly. 

Dry Heat Sterilization

Sometimes steam cannot reach or damage equipment; dry heat is the next best thing. Dry heat is a powerful but time-consuming method that requires extreme heat, pressure, and time. It is not appropriate for any equipment, although it is frequently more convenient than other alternatives. The elimination of bacterial growth through dry heat sterilization requires air set to roughly 340 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Chemical Sterilization

This procedure involves the use of chemical solutions that have been prepared ahead of time. The following compounds are often used in sterilization: 

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Bleach
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Bleach

These compounds can destroy a broad spectrum of diseases while also posing a risk to people. You immerse the equipment entirely in the synthetic chemical for a certain period till the germs die. Then, rinse and dry the equipment once it has been disinfected. Organic substances, fiber optics, and other thermally sensitive materials are not suited for chemical sterilization. 

Plasma Gas Sterilizers

This sterilization method employs a low-temperature hydrogen peroxide-based gas plasma within a container to destroy germs, such as bacteria, fungus, viruses, spores, and dental and medical equipment. The sealed apparatus is sterilized when vaporized hydrogen peroxide is added to the container. 

When you extract the vapor from the container, it generates a lower-temperature plasma, which means that almost all equipment is thoroughly sterilized. The last steps include water and oxygen, which render these sterilizers safe for the atmosphere and medical personnel. Even if this is a relatively expensive approach, it is highly effective and a good choice for moisture-sensitive healthcare equipment and instruments.

Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide (VHP) Sterilizers

Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide sterilizers employ hydrogen peroxide vapor, same as plasma sterilizers, but they don't contain plasma gas during the sterilization process. VHP sterilization eliminates moisture from a container, and a compressor quickly inserts VHP into the enclosure to obtain the optimal concentration for sterilizing equipment. The fumes successfully eliminate any microbes that may be detected, sterilizing the cage. The generator then reverses the operation, breaking down the vapor into environmentally beneficial components. Because VHP sterilization has a short cycle time, it can disinfect mass quantities of equipment in a short period. 

Medical Equipment Sterilization Advantages

A surgical tool or medical equipment comes into touch with a patient's mucous membranes or aseptic tissue during extensive operations. The transfer of harmful microorganisms, which might lead to infection, is a severe danger of these operations. In addition, when medical equipment is not adequately disinfected or sterilized, the chance of infection increases owing to the breakdown of host barriers. 

The following are some of the advantages of sterilizing medical equipment: 

  • First, it removes pus, blood, foreign material, and debris that might cause severe problems in the next patient who needs treatment, and the medical professional uses the tool.
  • Reduces bioburden or the number of germs that aren't sterilized and live on a contact.
  • It protects costly, highly accurate instruments with sensitive pivots and hinges against corrosion or oxidation.
  • Sterilizing deprives the remaining germs of a breeding environment.
  • It provides that equipment that has to be packaged and configured for sterilization or disinfection is transported safely.

When utilized appropriately, sterilization and disinfection may assure the safe use of invasive and non-invasive medical technologies.

Establishing Sterilization Protocols

The procedure of sterilization is simply one element of the situation. Thorough protocols have been established to maintain patients' safety. It's pointless to sterilize equipment if the hospital staff remove it with their bare hands or leave it on an unsterilized tabletop once the process is done. Sterilization methods do not seem to be complicated, but they must be thorough. It may be as easy as: 

  • Place the equipment in the sterilizer and choose the appropriate cycle.
  • The sterilizer is being filled. Please don't overdo it.
  • When the process is over, allow the objects to dry.
  • Letting them cool before touching is a good idea.
  • Checking package indications to ensure sterilization has been performed

Developing thorough sterilization processes is as simple as completing the cycle properly and checking the package indicators to see if sterilizing worked. However, it goes a long way toward avoiding infections if you do it correctly. 

Conclusion

Medical equipment sterilization is essential in avoiding health-related illnesses and protecting patients healthy, irrespective of activity or expertise. Bacteria must be removed by both hospital personnel and patients to prevent the spread of diseases. To establish a complete sterilization process, you don't need much. 

The secret is to keep them in good shape at all times. Patients and healthcare systems might suffer severe effects if one step is skipped or a group member fails to follow the rules. Lastly, to minimize infection rates from patient to patient, the staff should take care of these critical equipment items thoroughly and effectively.