A Comprehensive Guide to Sterilization Techniques in Medical Equipment

Steri Group's Medical Equipment Sterilization Guide - Illustration showcasing modern sterilization techniques for healthcare devices.

The field of medicine requires high-quality sterilization and in order to reach that level, medicine has adopted various techniques. It is safe to say that each and every piece of medical equipment has a specific way of sterilization. This is to ensure the efficiency of cleaning.

In this blog post, we are going to get a close look at these practices, and potentially gain new knowledge about the sterilization practices of medical equipment.

The concept of sterilization

The medical field faces various types of bacteria daily. Some of them are reached by disposable equipment and are gotten rid of immediately. The others require it to be eliminated with a professional approach since not every piece of medical equipment is disposable.

These practices cannot be overstated since the health of the next patient directly depends on them. With this, here are some medical equipment and their commonly used sterilization practices.

When thinking about sterilization processes, the first thing that comes to the majority of our minds is the sterilization of scalpels, thermometers, IVs, and more. Now let’s add some other medical equipment that requires a high level of sterilization as well.

Patient Monitors

Patient monitors track and display the vital signs of the patient, including heart rate, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure. Just like mentioned above, this is one of the devices that cannot be disposed of, meaning, it needs to be thoroughly sterilized, and here’s how.

  • Surface disinfection: While sterilizing the device, it is important to avoid using strong chemicals that will potentially damage it. Instead, it is important and highly recommended to look into the disinfectant means recommended by the device manufacturer. This piece of information is easy to find in the handbook that comes with the device.
  • Removable components: Now that we know how to properly take care of the device, it is important to remove or detach all the attached components before sterilizing the patient monitor.

X-ray Equipment

These devices are used to provide diagnostic imaging and contain dozens of internal components. This means the sterilization should be done carefully to avoid damaging any internal system.

  • Barrier protection: First thing first, the surface that has direct contact with patients needs to be taken care of with disposable barriers. For example imaging table covers and protective drapes. These barriers should be replaced after each patient, otherwise they can transfer infections from one patient to another.
  • Cleaning disinfection: Just like in the previous example, it is preferable to look into the provided handbook by the manufacturer. In the process, it is required to avoid interventions of functioning controls and displays with the cleaning process.

Sterilization techniques

Although it is mandatory to follow the handbook of the manufacturer, to provide the specific and correct way of sterilization, there are many practices of sterilization. Here are the common ones.

  • Autoclaving: A commonly used practice in medical equipment sterilization. During this process, the device is put inside a pressure vessel. Then the process includes three main factors.
  1. The sterilization includes vacuuming the air from the pressure vessel. Some practices also include vacuuming the air with steam flushes and pressure pulses. Steam is used in gravity-type sterilizers to push air out of the chamber and down the sterilizer drain.
  2. After removing the air, the sterilizer drain shuts off and steam is continuously let into the pressure vessel, raising the temperature and pressure inside it quickly to a predefined point. Items are kept at the sterilization temperature for the predetermined period of time needed to sterilize them as the cycle moves into the exposure phase.
  3. The sterilizer drain is opened and steam is expelled during the cycle’s last stage, exhaust, which depressurizes the vessel and lets the load’s contents dry.
  • Radiation Sterilization: To put it simply, gamma radiation, beta particles, or ultraviolet light are used to sterilize a product. Although it isn’t thought of as a primary radiation sterilization technique, microwave radiation is occasionally used for empty glass containers. 
  • Chemical sterilization: There are many cases when radiation can damage the equipment. This is when chemical sterilization is used. Chemical sterilizers typically work by directly contacting the test article (typically via a semi-porous membrane or package) with low-temperature, highly reactive gases. Additionally, liquids are used for sterilization, such as bleach. Other than bleach, there are other chemicals commonly used in chemical sterilization practices.
  1. Ozone
  2. Silver
  3. Phthalaldehyde
  4. Bleach
  5. Hydrogen Peroxide
  6. Glutaraldehyde and Formaldehyde
  7. Peracetic Acid

It is highly recommended to take into account the effect of each chemical on the device and use them carefully, fully aware of its results.

Conclusion: The contribution of Steri Group to the modern sterilization practices

In conclusion, medicine depends on high-quality sterilization, and over time, the field adopts more contemporary techniques for thorough sterilization practices.

For proper hygiene and sterilization practices, Steri Group has partnered with companies providing not only high-quality medical devices that include a full handbook on how to use and sterilize the product but also a hygiene-oriented partner that provides the best solutions referring to this topic. For more details, get acquainted with the full portfolio of Steri Group on our website.