Written by Deanna Otts-Whitfield, RDH, BSDH, MSHQS, CDIPC
Manual sterilizers have been in production for over 100 years. The first autoclave was created by Charles Chamberland, a French microbiologist, in 1879. Soon after, disinfection and sterilization practices were introduced in medical and scientific settings. Temperature and pressure were difficult to measure initially, but as technology developed, mechanisms established monitoring controls.
Sterilization is the process that eradicates all forms of biological life. When referring to bacteria and viruses, destroying microorganisms is extremely important to the health and safety of the public. Certain conditions must occur to achieve sterilization, and data monitoring is the most critical determination. Modern steam sterilizers have mechanisms that allow the operator to see the operational settings.
- Monitoring the sterilization cycle is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the sterilization process. The time, pressure, and temperature during a cycle should be recorded each time.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control, sterilizer log information must be maintained for three years.
- A manual autoclave requires the operator to fill the chamber with water and set the cycle time and temperature. If the autoclave has a faulty cycle, the operator will have the information necessary to determine what protocol to implement in this case. So, why all the extra steps and time watching and recording the sterilizer? Manual autoclaves have been in the industry for a long time and are still dependable. They are less expensive to purchase and repair. Tuttnauer still produces manual autoclaves; refurbished Pelton & Crane sterilizers can be found through distribution companies.
- Automatic sterilizers are more common due to their automated processes and real-time data-sharing capabilities. With the push of a button, the machine will fill the chamber with water, initiate the time and temperature settings, and start the drying cycle. Some automatic sterilizers can have a logger that prints the cycle information for tracking purposes. WiFi-enabled autoclaves can transfer data to a smartphone or computer. Automatic sterilizers are often more expensive to purchase and repair.
So, which is the best, manual or automatic? Both are capable of handling the fundamental sterilization process. A manual autoclave takes a little more time to operate and monitor. Plus, the operator must maintain a sterilizer log. Automatic sterilizers require less attention but can be more expensive. If productivity is your business's bottom line, it is wise to consider whether time equals money.
You can find a Sterilizer Log here.
- (2016, September 18). Steam Sterilization: Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities 2008. Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved May 24, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/sterilization/steam.html
- (2022, March 24). Everything about Autoclaves. STERIS Healthcare. Retrieved June 21, 2023, from https://www.steris.com/healthcare/knowledge-center/sterile-processing/everything-about-autoclaves#:~:text=The%20steam%20digester%2C%20a%20prototype,physicist%20Denis%20Papin%20in%201679.&text=It%20wasn't%20until%201879,be%20used%20in%20medical%20applications.