The Importance of an Autoclave Indicator

by dewi susanti

An autoclave indicator is by far one of the most critical parts in a sterilizer. This is because indicators in sterilizers are used for purposes such as spore testing among other tests. It is important to understand that indicators are very useful in assessing the efficiency of a sterilizer. Indicators are mainly used in monitoring the performance of sterilizers in respect to efficiency as well as checking for any faults and errors in sterilizers. There are different types of indicators that include:

Biological indicators

Biological indicators have bacterial spores that are used for testing the effectiveness of an autoclave in killing bacteria cells. Most sterilizers use Geobacillus stearothermophilus spores as biological indicators. These spores are commonly used in steam and chemical vapor sterilizers. There are also other sterilizers that use Bacillus subtilis spores that are commonly used in ethylene oxide sterilizers and in dry gas sterilizers. Indicators come in a large variety and are designed for different types of tests.

Chemical indicators

Chemical indicators are uniquely designed to possess characteristic physical and chemical changes for detecting conditions in sterilization chambers. Mainly, these detectors are used in detecting prospective sterilization failures and their most likely causes. These indicators also detect physical faults such as poor packaging, malfunctioning in the sterilizer and incorrect loading in the equipment.

Chemical indicators are used alongside biological indicators so as to ensure that the right sterilization conditions are maintained at all times.

Temperature indicators

Temperature indicators are very important parts of a sterilizer. This is because unlike other indicators, temperature indicators are used at all times during sterilization. For microorganisms such as bacteria to be killed, there are the specific temperature ranges that should never be exceeded. Temperature indicators (mostly thermometers) are used in checking the temperature ranges in the sterilization chamber.

Mechanical indicators

During a sterilizer operation, mechanical indicators are used in monitoring the mechanical performance of the sterilizer. These indicators include gauges and dials that are used in checking whether a sterilizer is functioning normally as required. For example, using mechanical indicators it is possible to identify faulty sterilizer doors and drains. Despite some of the latest autoclaves having automated recording devices used in documenting the mechanical performance of a sterilizer, traditional mechanical indicators are still widely used even to date.

With an efficient autoclave indicator, monitoring the performance and state of an autoclave becomes quit easy. The best thing about sterilizer indicators is that most of them are very simple to use. As such, interpreting the findings and results of the indicators is quite easy. This makes it effortless to take the necessary steps and adjustments according to the results of the indicators. If a sterilizer is faulty, a perfectly working autoclave will send signals about the fault. This helps in fixing errors and faults in sterilizers before they get out of hand and cause serious problems.

An autoclave indicator (whether chemical, biological or mechanical) is designed to enhance safety of personnel, accuracy of sterilization processes as well as reliability of the sterilizer. As such, it is important to maintain these indicators in their best working conditions for purposes of getting accurate results.

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