Questions and Answers about Flash Sterilization

Questions and Answers about Flash Sterilization

Statim autoclaves are not “flash” sterilizers.

SciCan’s STATIM cassette sterilizers have a biological effectiveness that has been proven in tests for hollow and solid instruments at many internationally recognized institutes in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

See this statement for more information:

AAMI, AORN, APIC Issue Immediate Use Sterilization Statement

…“flash sterilization” is an antiquated term that does not fully describe the various steam sterilization cycles now used to process items not intended to be stored for later use. Read the full ST79 Statement for details here and AAMI Article here

Question: What is flash sterilization?

Flash Sterilization usually means steam sterilization of an unwrapped instrument or device for 3 to 10 minutes in 270° F saturated steam.  Flash sterilization is usually accomplished with a gravity displacement cycle, although certain newer sterilizers may employ a vacuum at the beginning or end of the cycle to remove air, steam, or aid in drying.

Question: Why use flash sterilization?

Flash sterilization is used when rapid sterilization of instrument or devices is required. This need may be the result of a limited number of instrument sets, a need for unanticipated instruments, or a contaminated instrument.

Question: What is the main problem with flash sterilization?

The problem is not with the sterilization process, but with the difficulty in maintaining sterility at the end of sterilization. It has been common practice to sterilize items in an open mesh basket. Upon removal from the sterilizer, the basket containing the items is covered or wrapped. The basket is then transported through non sterile areas to the operating site.

Once the sterilizer is opened at the end, of the cycle, the basket and its contents may be exposed to recontamination. Even with subsequent wrapping or covering, it is difficult to ensure the items have remained sterile.

Question: What can be done to prevent recontamination?

The only way to prevent recontamination of flash sterilized items is to enclose the items within a biological barrier prior to opening the sterilizer at the end of the cycle.

Question: Why not use muslin or non-woven wrap in the flash sterilizer?

Muslin and non-woven wraps provide an effective barrier for steam or gas sterilized items. These wraps are used in hi-vac and certain gravity displacement steam cycles. In order for items wrapped in these materials to sterilize properly, air entrapped within the package must be eliminated. The hi-vac sterilizer accomplishes this with the use of a vacuum. The gravity displacement cycle relies on time (30 minutes or more) for elimination of air.

When employing flash sterilization proper pre-vacuum or adequate time may not be available for proper removal of air. Failure to remove the air may result in inadequate sterilization.

Question: Will rigid containers with filters work in the flash sterilizer?

Usually not. The same problem exists with filtered containers as does with wrapped items. The air trapped within the container must be removed with a vacuum or extended sterilization time.

Question: What about containers which are claimed to be good in flash sterilization?

Certain manufacturers claim their product will work in a flash cycle. Use of a rigid container with filters removed may allow flash sterilization within 3 to 10 minutes. Another container designed for flash sterilization employs an open lid and bottom valve which must be closed manually after the sterilizer cycle.

Both of these techniques subject the items to recontamination, as does the open basket, since no biological barrier exists when the sterilizer is opened.

Question: Are there any containers for flash sterilization which prevent recontamination?

Yes. The STATIM 2000, 5000 and 7000 cassettes are designed as sterile barrier systems to prevent recontamination during transport.

Here is another example of a rigid sterilization container for immediate use sterilization:


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