Proper Heat Sterilization Key to Preventing Surgical Infections

By: Bryan Ashbaugh

There has been increasing concern in the past few decades about the incidence of post-surgical infections in hospitals across the country. Statistics have shown that infections occur in as many as one in twenty hospital patients, with one quarter of those occurring in surgical patients. One of the culprits may be contaminated surgical instruments in some of the nearly 500,000 cases reported each year.

Hospitals and clinics spend billions of dollars every year on medical surgical supplies in order to provide the best possible care. Why, then, are infections still occurring in some patients following surgery? The answer may be that although health care facilities are sterilizing their instruments, they may not be doing the job properly. Proper heat sterilization is usually done with an autoclave, which uses high pressure steam heat to kill bacteria, fungus and viruses.

In most cases, these autoclaves function properly. However, some health care facilities may have equipment that is outdated or simply difficult to use properly. Other facilities may have purchased from a medical surgical supplies wholesaler that carries products that don't meet federal guidelines. With so much going on and so many other types of equipment to budget for (medical imaging supplies are essential as well, and can be expensive), some hospitals or clinics don't upgrade their autoclaves as often as they should or simply don't know how to check to see if they are operating at the right temperature or running long enough to kill all infectious microbes.

High Quality Autoclaves End Infection Concerns

Fortunately, there are some medical surgical supplies companies that offer top quality autoclaves that make monitoring the sterilization process simpler and guarantee efficient, safe operation. Today's newer autoclaves offer several features that make sure that surgical instruments are germ free in several ways:

* Auto shut-off for sterilization and drying cycles

* Double-locking mechanisms to prevent de-pressurization during the sterilization process

* Close door active drying system

* Large chambers that accommodate either larger surgical instruments or several smaller ones while allowing enough room for adequate circulation and penetration of steam to all parts of the instruments

* Dual thermostats to prevent overheating and monitor steam temperatures to assure temperatures reach the required 121 to 132 degrees Fahrenheit.

* Adjustable timers that can be set for the appropriate time depending upon the type of instruments, how many are being sterilized and whether they are wrapped or unwrapped

* Simplicity of design for ease of cleaning and biological monitoring on a regular basis to ensure proper operation and full sterilization

When purchasing medical surgical supplies such as new autoclaves, the best hospitals and clinics choose those that have the above features and are manufactured by respected medical equipment manufacturers who meet or exceed the standards put forth by the Centers for Disease Control.

In the last few years hospitals and clinics have responded to the need for increased vigilance in the prevention of infection, and as a result the incidence of post-operative infections has recently begun to drop significantly. Medical surgical supplies companies have recognized the importance of meeting this need by providing more options, including both manual and automatic autoclaves that come in sizes for everything from private doctor's offices to large hospitals' surgical wards.

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Tony King is a contributing author for Evolve Technologies Corporation. Visit today to learn more about environmental services and products!

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