Our medical devices are now cleaned, dried, and packaged. Nice job! Now, let's put this load in the next sterilizer available in the SPD. Not so fast! Every sterilizer has validated sets of claims and limitations that you should know. This is also true for every cycle of a sterilizer. The fastest cycle is not always appropriate for what you want to sterilize. These claims and limitations were established and validated by the sterilizer manufacturer, and then cleared by the regulators. Be sure to respect these limits, as doing otherwise may result in unsuccessful sterilization.
What to watch for? The first important consideration is the type of devices. Are you sterilizing general instruments, rigid or flexible scopes, single or multi-channel? This matters, as well as the inner diameter and length of every lumen involved, from one opening to the next. Complete information about the dimensions of scope channels may be unavailable but may be confirmed with the scope and/or the sterilizer manufacturer.
The load weight should also be considered. A load too large for a particular cycle may not be exposed to enough sterilant to achieve sterility. What about the load temperature? A load too cold may induce excessive sterilant condensation, while a load too warm may experience sterility issues. Also, be aware that some cycles may have limitations related to the use of silicone mats, aluminum containers and Radel® trays. Some materials can absorb H2O2 and reduce the cycle lethality.
Do you like using tons of pouches? Watch out for potential limitations on the amount that can be placed in a load, or on double pouching. Some cycles limit the number of shelves that can be used. Just because there is room in the chamber doesn’t mean you should always put more stuff in.
In the end, every load should be prepared considering the specific claims and limitations of a sterilizer and cycle. And be sure to select the right cycle!