There are many different steps in the development and manufacturing of medical devices before they get to market. One of the most important steps comes at the end of the production and before or after packaging. It is the process of medical instrument sterilization to ensure the device is safe for use.
There are several different methods that are highly effective in providing the type and specific sterilization requirements for medical devices and instruments. Unlike traditional heat and some types of sterilizing chemicals, the more effective and efficient options include the use of ethylene oxide, gamma radiation or electron beam sterilization.
Ethylene Oxide (EO)
While actually known since the late 1850s, it wasn’t until the early part of the 1900s that ethylene oxide was readily available. While used for medical instrument sterilization, it was originally used for preserving spices, which is still is today.
The use of ethylene oxide or EO allows for any type of instrument or device to be sterilized without the use of heat or moisture. There are several stages to this process that includes exposing the instruments in specially designed chambers to the EO gas for a specific amount of time. The gas itself is able to adversely affect DNA, protein and amino acids to kill all organic contaminants.
Gamma Radiation and Electron Beam Sterilization
A highly effective option for medical instrument sterilization, exposure to gamma radiation is quick and effective. Medical devices can be quickly processed on a conveyor, positioning the devices in the correct proximity to the gamma radiation to damage any living cells and sterilizing the instruments.
Like gamma radiation, electron beam sterilization is a continuous process that moves the medical devices on a conveyor in the required proximity and duration of exposure to an electron beam. Also similar to gamma radiation, the electron beam destroys any living cellular DNA, killing all possible organic contaminants on the devices. This will include any fungal spores, bacteria or viruses, which makes a very good option for specific types of instruments.