How To Use A Small-Scale Ethylene Oxide Sterilization Device

Posted on: 13 May 2021

Ethylene oxide (EO) sterilization devices are used to sterilize medical equipment. Ethylene oxide is more effective than steam for sterilization, and EO devices are easy to use. Though sometimes EO is used on a large scale, for sterilizing several pallets' worth of products, EO device sterilization can also be done on a small scale in a medical clinic, doctor's office, or a surgical unit. This article will help you understand the basic uses of smaller EO devices and how they operate.

EO Basics and Uses

Ethylene oxide devices use ethylene oxide gas, which is colorless and odorless. EO device sterilization uses moisture control and low temperatures, making the devices ideal for products that are sensitive to heat and moisture that would be damaged by traditional steam sterilization. This makes EO sterilization the perfect method for sterilizing items with electronics, such as pacemakers. EO gas can also penetrate plastic packaging, making it safe to disinfect packed items such as wound care dressings. It is also optimal for sanitizing tools that are used in surgery because EO gas can penetrate all the layers and parts of a medical product, eliminating all germs and potentially dangerous bacteria.

Preparing the Load for Sterilization 

Follow your facility's protocols for properly wrapping the items that will be sanitized. Wrapped items are then placed in the specialized bag that will be used to run the sterilization cycle. A humidity stabilizer, a dosimeter (which will tell whether the cycle completed successfully), and the EO gas cartridge will all be placed in the bag as well. (Additional humidity stabilizers and EO gas cartridges may be needed for long cycles). Then insert the vacuum probe and seal the bag around it. Turn on the vacuum to illuminate the air from inside the bag, and then activate the gas cartridge within the closed bag.

Programming the Ethylene Oxide Sterilization Device

Close the chamber door and choose the proper cycle. The cycle that you choose to run will depend on the content that you are sterilizing. Cycles can be anywhere from just a couple of hours to 24 hours long. Longer cycles are needed for many items, complex items with lots of plastic, or items with intricate electronics. Take care to always be aware of the different factors that can affect the success of the EO sterilization cycle and follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

After the Cycle

When the EO cycle is finished running, allow the proper ventilation period to finish before you remove the items from the chamber. Following that, there is a necessary aeration cycle in which all the items are cleansed of EO gas. This aeration cycle is sometimes up to 24 hours long.

Ethylene oxide gas is an effective sterilizer as long as you manage it properly and safely. Use this guide and follow your facility's protocols, as well as your EO device's detailed manual, to ensure that your medical equipment comes out sterilized and safe each time you use it.