Storage and distribution - sterilization process, Biology

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Packs, pouches, and cassettes are sometimes wet after completing the sterilization process. This is a problem usually associated with the use of paper or paper/ plastic wraps in the steam autoclave. Micro organisms can be drawn through wet paper if touched. Also, wet paper has a tendency to rip or tear. It is best to minimize the handling of wet items until they have had an opportunity to dry. Many steam autoclaves have drying periods that follow sterilization cycles.

Items processed in all types of heat sterilizers are hot when ready to be removed. Hot items should be allowed to cool slowly. Exposure of hot items to cold air (e.g., from an air vent or window) should be prevented to avoid forming condensation. Using a fan or a blower to either dry or cool processed items should be avoided because it increases the chances of contamination. It is best to dry and/or cool instruments as a group; handling a tray full of packs instead of individual items.

If instruments have been processed unwrapped or unpackaged (acceptable only for one or few instruments processed through a "flash sterilization" cycle), they must be immediately covered or somehow protected from air contamination and touching contaminated surfaces prior to use.

Cool and dry instrument packs are ready to be properly stored. If the organization of the sterilization processing area is correct, the chances of mixing sterile items with those waiting to be processed approaches zero. External chemical monitors (e.g., autoclave tape) also help to identify processed packs.


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