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Autoclave - In Depth

The science behind the technology 

An autoclave sterilizes items by heating them with steam to a very high temperature. In its most basic form, an autoclave works like a pressure cooker, by heating water in a pressurized environment to create steam. Autoclaves use steam instead of dry heat because steam more effectively transmits heat to microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, mold, and fungi.

There are three types of steam sterilizers:

• Downward displacement autoclaves use gravity to remove air. There’s the potential for incomplete sterilization if small pockets of air remain trapped.

• Steam pulsing autoclaves use pulses of steam in combination with pressurizing and depressurizing to reach optimum pressure. These sterilizers are pre-programmed to optimize sterilization parameters.

• Vacuum pump autoclaves suck air out to cause pressurization. In large clinics, sterilizers must accommodate large containers of instruments and stacks of linens, which require a deep penetration of steam. In smaller clinic environments, however, this level of complexity is typically not necessary.

Some practices prefer chemical vapor sterilization, or dry heat sterilization, because it reduces instrument deterioration. However, only dry instruments can be sterilized this way.

Finally, chemical immersion (liquid or “cold” sterilization) is used for pre-cleaning instruments prior to sterilization, or for sterilizing heat-sensitive instruments that can’t be processed in a steam autoclave. However, vapor is a concern, and disposal must meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laws.

Prospects likely to buy a new autoclave

Any practice is a candidate for an autoclave system upgrade, since many systems haven’t been replaced in years. Clinics that have increased their volume of surgeries and procedures are good candidates for a larger or more advanced unit.

How to sell autoclave systems 

• Check-off/qualify: Nearly all practices have some kind of autoclave, so you’ll want to probe with an “Is it time?” question: “Have you considered upgrading to a larger or more efficient autoclave?”

• Confidence: If YES, confirm and support benefits. If NO, assert the benefits with confidence. “I’m sure the latest autoclave options can make the sterilization process easier and faster for you.”

• Invitation to neutral: “Let’s look at how today’s autoclaves are making sterilization easier.”

• Seek alignment/understanding as the dialogue continues: “Can you help me understand …

• “How many surgeries/procedures are you performing per day?”

• “How often is your sterilizer being used?”

• “How old is your autoclave?”

• “What do you like and/or dislike about your current autoclave?”

• “What would it mean if a new unit meant less staff time sterilizing equipment and a much faster, easier operation?”

It’s the customer’s decision… “You can decide if the latest autoclave options will provide a more sterile and safe environment for your team and your patients.”

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