Sterilization is a critical aspect of healthcare and medical services. Sterile processing technicians ensure medical equipment and instruments are free from contaminants and pathogens. In this article, we’ll explore the various sterilization methods and techniques used by sterile processing technicians to maintain a safe and healthy environment for patients and healthcare workers.
Steam sterilization is also known as autoclaving. It is one of the most common sterilization methods implemented in hospitals and medical centers. Under this process medical equipment is purified in high-pressure steam at a temperature of 121°C (250°F) for a certain time. Sterile processing programs teach students that steam sterilization is highly effective and suitable for most medical equipment.
Ethylene oxide sterilization is a low-temperature method for heat-sensitive equipment and materials, such as plastics, electronics, and textiles. This process involves exposing the items to a mixture of ethylene oxide gas and other gasses at 37°C (99°F) for several hours, killing all microorganisms. Proper use of ethylene oxide is taught in the central service technician program. Ethylene oxide sterilization is highly effective but requires specialized equipment and handling procedures.
This method is a low-temperature utilization of vaporized hydrogen peroxide gas to cleanse medical instruments and equipment. This process involves exposing the items to the gas at around 55°C (131°F) for several hours, killing all microorganisms. Sterile processing students learn to work with hydrogen peroxide in a sterile processing program. Hydrogen peroxide sterilization is highly effective and is commonly used for heat-sensitive equipment and materials.
Plasma sterilization uses low-temperature plasma gas to purify medical instruments. This process involves exposing the items to low-pressure plasma gas at a temperature of around 45°C (113°F) for a short period, which kills all microorganisms. Plasma sterilization is highly effective and suitable for most medical equipment types. The Central service technician program teaches students the process of plasma sterilization.
Gamma radiation sterilization is a high-energy radiation method commonly used for medical instruments and equipment that cannot withstand other sterilization methods. Gamma radiation sterilization requires specialized equipment and handling procedures. Students learn how to handle the technical equipment in the sterile processing program.
In chemical sterilization, a chemical agent is used to sterilize medical instruments and equipment. This process involves immersing the items in a chemical solution or gas, which kills all microorganisms. Chemical sterilization is highly effective and is commonly used for heat-sensitive equipment and materials. Therefore, sterile processing training is vital to avoid hazards while working with chemical heat.
A low-temperature technique called ultraviolet (UV) sterilization employs ultraviolet light to eradicate bacteria. This procedure involves subjecting the objects to UV light with a certain wavelength, which breaks down the DNA of bacteria and prevents them from reproducing. UV sterilization is effective for surface disinfection but unsuitable for sterilizing medical equipment and instruments.
Dry heat sterilization is a method that uses high temperatures to sterilize medical instruments and equipment. This process involves subjecting the items to dry heat at around 160°C (320°F) for a specific period, killing all microorganisms. Dry heat sterilization is highly effective but is not suitable for all types of medical equipment and instruments.
Sterile processing technicians must know the different sterilization methods. With advancements in technology, sterilization methods have evolved. Sterile processing technician certification at PTTI helps sterile processing fiends stay current.