The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) has just made two updated sterilization manuals available. These latest editions provide comprehensive information regarding processing and standards. Only the first 2 volumes of the 3 volume series have been reissued at this time. They can be purchased in printed form or on CD.

Part 1 is the Sterilization in Health Care Facilities manual. It covers topics of interest to hospitals/end users of autoclaves. One important standard that has been revamped for this edition is the ST65. This portion of the book deals specifically with the processing of reusable surgical textiles. Such materials sometimes contain sharp objects including scalpel blades and needles. These pose a serious health risk to the employees responsible for sorting and laundering the textiles. Safe handling methods are discussed that will help healthcare workers to identify and reduce the risk of injury and exposure to infection during reprocessing.

The document also takes a closer look at permanent stains on surgical textiles. Obviously, where there is a stain there is residue of some kind. A table is included to help those inspecting these materials determine whether or not a stain poses a contamination hazard. Guidance is also offered regarding the use of new, environmentally friendly chemicals for processing fabrics. These altered formulas operate at different temperatures than the older wash chemistries. Knowing the correct parameters is essential for thorough and effective sterilization.

Changes to Volume Two

Part 2, Sterilization Equipment Design and Use, targets manufacturers and those making autoclave purchasing decisions. This volume has just been updated for the first time since 2006. A lot can change in the field of autoclave technology in just 3 years. One of the main areas the AAMI has revised in this book is the ST8 standard. Manufacturers of mid to large capacity sterilizers will be affected by the new requirements regarding steam quality.

The concerns raised by Mark Smith, co-chair of AAMI’s Hospital Steam Sterilizer Working Group, have to do with the moisture level of the steam used in autoclaves. He states that the key to ending up with a dry load at the end of each cycle is to use dry steam. This may seem like an oxymoron since water vapor is obviously involved. However, the specific moisture content of this steam can be reduced by ensuring that condensate does not build up in the lines. Proper set up and equipment design are crucial factors in achieving the desired end result.

This new ST8 also addresses issues regarding load weight. Metal instruments can be quite heavy. When an autoclave will be repeatedly filled with such dense loads as wrapped orthopedic instrument sets, additional precautions may need to be taken to ensure proper sterilization. A 25 lb process challenge device (PCD) is required to test the efficacy of the steam autoclave. This device is placed inside the chamber in what is considered to be the most difficult location to effectively sterilize. If the spores in the PCD are killed, the equipment is assumed to be working well enough to deal with other, less tenacious pathogens as well.

If you have an autoclave or sterilizer that no longer meets appropriate specifications, find out how to replace your equipment. Our free report has more details.