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The five main reasons for the failure of steam sterilization

Autoclave is a sterilization equipment that is beneficial to all walks of life. In healthcare environment, autoclaves protect patients by removing pathogens from appliances and equipment. In the lab, autoclaves give scientists the assurance of their experiments by eliminating biological factors that might interfere with their results. In production facilities, autoclaves are used in a variety of innovative ways to manufacture new products and materials, such as aerated concrete.

However, when autoclaves don’t work properly, they do no good to anyone. The following are some of the most common reasons for failure of the steam autoclaving cycle:

Improper packing or loading

While some objects, such as large glassware, may be completely exposed to autoclave, many smaller objects must be packaged or wrapped prior to sterilization. The wrapping ensures that the steam is permeated and sterilized in a uniform manner.

However, when a package of material is not packaged properly, it may interfere with your autoclave’s ability to sterilize.

In addition, when loading the autoclave chamber, technicians should place the material according to the equipment manufacturer’s instructions. If your autoclave is not loaded as expected by the manufacturer, it may not work properly.

Proper packaging and loading protocols should be part of the training of medical and dental assistants, sterilization engineers, laboratory technicians, or any other professional who may be responsible for preparing materials for inclusion in autoclaves.

Select the wrong cycle for the autoclave contents

Although steam autoclaves can handle a variety of different objects, not all materials can be disinfected and sterilized in the same way. For example, if a packaged medical tool is to be sterilized using the gravity cycle of a autoclave, the sterilization steam may not reach every part

of the device. We can customize the sterilization cabinet according to customer’s requirements.

Vacuum failure

If you are disinfecting small, porous or irregularly shaped materials, you need to use a vacuum disinfection cycle. In the vacuum cycle, all air is forced out of the autoclave during the pretreatment process. This allows disinfection vapors to reach every nook and cranny of your content.

If your autoclave does not create sufficient vacuum conditions, your sterilization cycle will fail. The most direct way to learn about vacuum failures is to use the Bowie-Dick test. The Bowie-Dick Test is a specialized test sheet that uses steam and air barriers to verify that your autoclave is providing a suitable vacuum environment for steam production and sterilization.

Poor steam quality

If you see wet bag and material after the sterilization cycle, your autoclave may have a problem with poor steam quality.

Various factors contribute to poor steam quality. If the steam “weight” (water content) exceeds the required parameter, it may affect the autoclave’s ability to operate as designed. Superheated steam — steam heated above the point at which all liquids evaporate — is also considered low quality sterilization.

To understand your steam production, it is important to have a clear understanding of the temperature and pressure in the autoclave chamber. Measuring devices, such as data loggers, can be used to create these profiles.

Temperature is not enough

Without high temperature, steam sterilization cannot work at all. The exact temperature of disinfection depends on a number of factors, such as the material to be disinfected, the nature of the work, and good manufacturing or laboratory practices.

The temperature in the autoclave can be double-checked or verified using a temperature data logger or similar equipment. If your autoclave does not reach 100 °C, it will not produce steam at all! If it does not reach 121 °C, it does not reach the threshold required for sterilization.

The autoclave temperature is studied throughout the sterilization cycle to determine if you are achieving adequate sterilization conditions.

Whether it is human error or equipment failure, failure to sterilize can cost companies and laboratories valuable time and money. To prevent this from happening to you, make sure you have a autoclave validation program and train all autoclave users to properly prepare and use the equipment.

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