With the popularity of manufacturers like Celitron on the rise, autoclaves are gaining more and more recognition worldwide. This isn’t a miracle by any means, as these steam sterilizers are perfect at what they do: ensuring medical-grade sterilization and a safe pre-disposal treatment for biomedical waste. But how do they work exactly, and what type should a medical facility choose?

These are the questions we’ll tackle in this article!

The origins of the autoclave: the need for a better sterilization procedure

Whether you believe it or not, the origin of steam sterilizer goes all the way back to the 19th century. Even before, doctors and researchers already understood the advantages of being able to perform sterile surgery via open flaming, but the method wasn’t practical, and most importantly, wasn’t reliable enough for them to guarantee the patients’ safety in a completely germ-free environment.

This is when a French microbiologist known as Charles Chamberland stepped up, and began a medical project that led to the creation of the first autoclave in 1879.

While steam sterilizers have certainly gone through some “updates” in the last 140 years or so, the first appearance of this invention laid the foundation for one of the most effective piece of equipment, that is now used by medical facilities all over the world, like hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and more!

How does an autoclave work? The logic behind the sterilization procedure

An autoclave can look and work a lot like a pressure cooker: using the power of steam to kill foreign materials that would otherwise be resistant to cleaning, disinfection, and even high temperatures. It is either used for medical equipment sterilization (liquid, solid, and hollow loads, surgical equipment, and other medical tools), which can then be used again by medical staff, or safely discarded as harmless, sterile medical waste, meaning it can even play a role in the disposal process.

The reason why the sterilization procedure of autoclaves is so effective, is because the most modern autoclaves can raise the pressure inside their chamber, which also increases the boiling point of water  over 100 degrees Celsius to temperatures ranging between 121 and 134 degrees Celsius: this allows the steam to kill even heat-resistant bacteria!

What kind of autoclaves have the “best” sterilization procedure?

So what kind of steam sterilizer should a medical facility choose? Do some autoclaves have a “better” sterilization procedure? It all depends on the kind, and quantity of loads you need to treat on a daily basis.

Available space and capacity are certainly important factors when choosing an autoclave: small clinics and large hospitals will naturally have different needs. A clinic will need an autoclave that is small enough to fit in with their other equipment, and a hospital will need one large enough to handle the amount of tools they use. This is why autoclaves are available in small, medium, and large sizes as well.

As for performance, class B autoclaves are definitely the most advanced kind. Compared to “N”, and “S” steam sterilizers, B types can handle all kinds of loads, and use a powerful vacuum system to ensure the most effective sterilization procedure!

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "The basics of the autoclave sterilization procedure," in Medicalopedia, October 31, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/9352/the-basics-of-the-autoclave-sterilization-procedure/].