Whether your facility has several large chamber autoclaves or a small dry heat sterilizer, it is crucial to ensure that your sterilizers are properly sterilizing your instruments. The failure to properly sterilize equipment may lead to the spread of infection among patients or staff who come into contact with used instruments. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that the functionality of a sterilizer is verified at least once each week through the use of a biological indicator like a spore test kit.
Spore test kits help screen for errors with a sterilization cycle. Issues that might lead to incomplete sterilization include part failure, electrical problems, inadequate heat, pressurization issues and steam leaks (autoclaves) or a variety of other problems. Sterilizer malfunctions can result in infection or even death if errors are not quickly identified and corrected.
The main component of each spore test kit is a special strip of paper that contains microorganisms stronger and more resistant than the common contaminants found on used instruments. The strips are placed in the sterilizer prior to running a routine sterilization cycle and removed once the cycle is complete. Detection of spores on the used strips confirm the presence of organisms in the sterilizer, indicating that the sterilizer is not functioning properly.
Test kits are conveniently packaged in small boxes that contain 12 or 52 tests. Some kits also contain prepaid envelopes that allow users to easily send each completed test to a laboratory for processing. Each strip has a code and expiration date to help staff keep better track of each test. Personnel should ensure that kits are kept in a secure, contaminant-free storage area that is cool and dry.
Spore test kits represent one of the only proven means by which proper sterilizer functionality can be verified. They are affordable, easy to use, and help greatly reduce the spread of infection while offering users peace of mind.