Most medical and surgical equipment are intended to be used only one time. Others that are designed for multiple usages must make sure that the surgical supplies and equipment are decontaminated and sterilized each time. This sterilization procedure takes place in three simple steps: cleaning the supplies, disinfecting the supplies and finally, sterilizing them. Furthermore, the contaminated material must also be disposed off in the securest manner so that it doesn’t get exposed and harm humans and animals.
Decontamination of supplies ensures eradication of all kinds of bacteria and viruses that are pathogenic, nonpathogenic. In the field of medicine, the ultimate medical sterilization process that’s widely trusted and considered reliable is ‘Autoclaving’. Without being limited to a certain field, this procedure is used by dentists, veterinarians and other doctors as well.
Risk of Infection from Unsterile Equipment
The risk associated with the utility of used or unsterilized medical equipment and supplies fall into three major categories:
- Low-risk equipment/supplies: These are routine equipment used by doctors such as stethoscope as they usually don’t come into the environment of open wounds. Typically, low-risk items can be made sterile by placing in hot soapy water or gentle antiseptic.
- Intermediate-risk equipment/supplies: These refer to thermometers and other equipment related to respiration that don’t break into the skin or get directly in contact with open wounds. However, there is a greater chance of collision with mucus membrane. Generally, high-level sanitizers or disinfectants must be used to sterilize them. You can always use a medical washing machine for this purpose.
- High-risk equipment/supplies: These supplies or equipment can penetrate into the skin, its tissues and cavities. Needless to say, the risk of infection is very high with such equipment/supplies. Surgical supplies and catheters are the most prominent examples here. It’s extremely important to sterilize these items in an autoclave for best results.
Types of Autoclaves
Talking of autoclaves, there are 3 most basic and prominent types. Keep reading to understand them better:
- Square Chamber Autoclave: Sized as big as a home refrigerator, this autoclave can hold multiple laboratory equipment. Also, it’s big enough to meet the needs of numerous wards in the hospital, labs etc.
- Tabletop Autoclave: Although they have a varying range when it comes to size, table top autoclaves are more appropriate for smaller clinics and offices. However, the bigger ones can accommodate for multitude of doctors and surgical centers.
- Stovetop Autoclave: This autoclave has physical and functional similarities with a pressure cooker. This type of autoclave is usually made for homes where medical sterilization can take place.