Sterilization is extremely important to the infection control process and biological indicators are critical to know if the sterilizer is effectively working to standards. Sterilization loads need to monitored to confirm the sterilization conditions were met, thereby ensuring the sterilization process was effective and the items in the sterilizer were sterilized correctly. Sterilization monitoring is critical to infection and the CDC recommends each sterilizer be tested at least weekly, some instruments, devices require sterilization monitoring more frequently.
Chemical indicators and biological indicators are the two primary ways to monitor sterilization effectiveness. Chemical indicators use chemicals on small strips or on tape that change color to show specific parameters were met. These parameters could be meeting a specific temperature or exposure to gases like Ethylene Oxide (EtO/EO). Some chemical indicators are multi-parameter and they monitor 2-3 measurements.
Biological indicators are generally considered the highest standard for monitoring the effectiveness of the sterilization process. Biological indicators use bacterial spores that spores are resistant to the sterilization process. These spores are enclosed in a smaller container that is placed inside the sterilizer. After going through the sterilization process the biological indicators are incubated to determine if any bacterial spores survived. After incubation, if all spores are killed it shows the sterilization process was effective and the medical items in the sterilizer should have zero or significantly fewer microorganisms on them.
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