Autoclaves are probably among the most important devices in the field of healthcare delivery. Basically, these machines are used for sterilizing medical and laboratory instruments. They are sort of like giant pressure cookers that make use of the power of steam to eradicate microbes that can survive simple washing with boiling water and soap. In the industrial setting, such items are utilized to “cure” products during the process of manufacturing.
Autoclaves come in the form of a large vessel through which steam is circulated to sanitize things, perform scientific experiments as well as industrial processes. Typically, their chambers are cylindrical in shape as it has been found out that cylinders are better at withstanding pressure compared to boxes since the latter have edges that can easily become weak. The high pressure makes these equipments self-sealing, though in most cases, due to safety reasons, they are manually sealed from the outside. Similar to pressure cookers, these items make use of safety valves to ensure the steam pressure is regulated and will not reach to dangerous levels.
Probably by now you’re wondering how such equipments function. Once the chamber is sealed, all the air inside the device is removed either through the use of a simple vacuum pump or by pumping in steam that forces the air out. Next, steam is pumped inside the chamber at a pressure of 15psi for it to reach a temperature of 121-140 degree Celsius. If the desired temperature is achieved, thermostat begins, which in turn starts the timer. The pumping of steam continues anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes – long enough to kill the present organisms. The whole sterilizing time depends greatly on various factors including the contamination level of the stuff being sanitized.
These days, autoclaves are available in several types. The most common are those that resemble pressure cookers that feature large pots with gauges on top as well as bolts that connect them to the pots. In doctors’ offices, these items are seen on a cart and are similar to the size of a microwave oven. They are commonly used to sanitize small batches of instruments.
Meanwhile, in hospitals as well as in other large medical facilities, these devices work like dishwashers. They can process large numbers of surgical instruments in a single cycle, sufficing to the constant need of such things in operating rooms and emergency departments. Ideally, these sanitizing equipments are one-touch instruments. That is, a technician should be able to easily load the machine, press a button for the cycle to begin, and the equipment does the whole process.
It was in 1879 that Charles Chamberland invented this device. Due to such invention, doctors were able to sterilize their instruments safely. Hence, it became an indispensable tool in proper healthcare administration. Although these days, the aforesaid machine is not quite as common as before because of the introduction of single-use medical apparatus, it still play a significant role both in medical and industrial settings. sterile processing technician