Giving You a Deeper Insight into the Autoclave Process
by dewi susanti
For centuries, people have used heat to purge medical and industrial equipment either in the form of boiling water or fire. The autoclave process too, uses moist heat as its fundamental operational principle. One cannot simply push a button and expect the device to do the rest. Operating an autoclave requires the person-in-charge to follow a step-by-step procedure as a missed step can reduce the efficacy of this sterilization method.
The Autoclave Process: Design, Principle and Procedure
We have divided the autoclave process into three main sections. The first tackles its structure and components; the second is a description of the key principles that increase effectiveness and the third is the detailed process.
The autoclave made its debut in 1879. Its founder was Charles Chamberland. Since then manufacturers of sterilizing equipment have crafted different models to meet the needs of different work spheres.
The most basic design resembles a pressure cooker. The lid fits tight and is fastened to the pot with the help of two bolts. There is a gauge on the top. The autoclave commonly spotted at a doctor’s office or a laboratory is one that looks like a microwave oven. It works well for disinfecting small batches of instruments. A few are placed on wheeled carts for the ease of transportation. Hospitals that need to process surgical instruments in large quantities require a larger autoclave. Inside an autoclave, there are trays that hold the instruments to be sterilized.
The effectiveness of the autoclave process depends on the following variables. First, the heated steam should come in direct contact with and saturate the instruments being sterilized. Hence, proper placement and wrapping is crucial. Second, there must be a vacuum within the chamber created by displacing air. The air is replaced with steam. Finally, the temperature and time duration for which it is exposed to steam matters most.
To start with, the technician places the medical instruments on to the tray. Sometimes, it is placed in heat resistant polypropylene bags. The load must be evenly distributed in order to ensure maximum steam penetration during the process. A few add biological and chemical indicators to test the potency of the process and the efficiency of the autoclave. After this initial preparation the door is closed. Many autoclave devices have a safety-locking mechanism that seals the device completely as soon as the cycle begins.
The technician customizes the setting either choosing a pre-existing cycle or he programs new parameters depending on the equipment that must be sterilized. A vacuum is created within the chamber by removing air by means of a pump. Heated steam is supplied into the chamber. A few autoclave models incorporate a steam generator dispensing with the need to introduce steam externally. The pressure inside the chamber is increased so as to increase the temperature of the steam. The temperature achieved is higher than the boiling point of water. It is kept constant at 250� F or 121� C for around 30 minutes before the steam inside the chamber is released and the load is allowed to dry.
The pressure and temperature is regularized and the sterilized load is allowed to cool. The load should be completely dry at the end of the cycle. If it is moist, it means that it has not been sterilized properly.
How does the autoclave process get rid of bacterial spores?
The autoclave process is thought to be more effective than most sterilization methods because it uses moist heat. It saturates the instruments and brings about the coagulation of essential proteins. It disrupts membranes and kills microorganisms.
The autoclave process helps eliminate transmissible agents such as viruses, bacteria and spores effectively. Using steam generated through the application of high temperature and pressure, this method is not only effective but also reasonable and time-saving for large scale applications.
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