There are various ways in which medical devices are sterilized including the use of moist heat steam or vaporized hydrogen peroxide. However, in some cases, ethylene oxide (EO) is the only method that can effectively sterilize the device without damaging it.
The Problem with Other Sterilization Methods
Sterilizing medical devices using other methods could cause damage to plastics, resins, glass, metals, and other components of a medical device. For example, using heat steam might cause some components to become warped or you may damage the electronic components of the device. Products sterilized using EO are not exposed to heat, radiation, or moisture.
EO device sterilization uses gases that will penetrate areas that other methods might miss. They are able to pass through breathable packaging. EO kills microorganisms by disrupting their cellular metabolism and by preventing them from reproducing.
Sterilizing Medical Devices in Their Original Packages
Medical devices that are placed in sealed packages can still be sterilized using EO because the gas is able to permeate the package to thoroughly sterilize it. When using other methods, you may be forced to remove the medical device from its package, sterilize it, and place it in a new package. This can increase the risk that the device will become contaminated at some stage in this process.
Limiting Exposure to EO
The exposure of staff to EO must be limited because exposure to EO can have carcinogenic effects. However, there are FDA-approved standards for how medical devices can be sterilized using EO. To make sure that your clinic follows FDA standards, you could perform the EO sterilization yourself after training your staff on how to use EO properly, or you could hire an EO sterilization service.
Trace EO Residue
After sterilizing a medical device with EO, trace residue may be left behind on the medical device. There are specific limits that the EO must be under to make sure that staff and patients are not put at risk.
Because some medical devices can only feasibly be sterilized using EO and because it is essential that your patients not become infected by pathogens that would otherwise still be active on the surfaces of medical devices, hiring an EO sterilization service is the best option.
Your clinic might have unique products that require a unique sterilization method. An EO sterilization service will consult with your company to make sure that your EO device sterilization needs are met.