Sterilizing and disinfecting the used medical components are the two basic processes performed under hospital infection
control activities. Every day hospitals perform several invasive surgical procedures where the surgical instruments often
come in contact with sterile tissue or the mucus membrane of the patient. If a hospital fails to sterilize these instruments
before the next use, they might risk the introduction of pathogens into the patient’s body. There is also an increased risk of transmission of infection from patient to patient, patient to the health care professional, or vice versa. Hence, the
health care professionals in hospitals, laboratories, and other health care centers need to have better knowledge
regarding the techniques of sterilization of surgical instruments.
What is Medical Irradiation?
CDC or Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines Sterilization as the use of a physical or chemical process that
destroys all microbial life including the bacterial endospores that are so highly resistant. Medical irradiation is when
radiation is used to kill germs that can spread disease and other harmful organisms. Sterilization along with medical
irradiation inactivates the microorganisms very efficiently and ensures that the health care equipment is safe and can be
Radiation is a safe and cost-effective method of sterilization of surgical instruments such as syringes, surgical gloves,
scalpels, surgical blades, dialyzer kits, gauze, Catheters, rubber stoppers, etc. One of the biggest advantages of using
radiation for this process is that it allows already packaged products to be sterilized as well.
What are the different types of sterilization for medical components?
Radiation uses a gamma wave which is an electron beam or an x-ray instead of gas. This medical sterilization process is
bio-burden based which means the manufacturers will have to determine the intensity of radiation needed to sterilize
the product without damaging it based on its bioburden count. Before a sterilization dose can be considered validated, a
bioburden test needs to be performed to determine the correct dose of verification for the sterility test.
There are a few types to be considered when learning about sterilization using radiation including gamma sterilization,
e-beam sterilization, and x-ray sterilization.
1. Gamma Sterilization:
Gamma rays can penetrate deep into the material with ease making them one of the most common methods of
sterilization. These rays can sometimes collide with an electron and provide the affected electronics with enough energy
to destroy the bio-burden of the medical component. As gamma rays travel through medical devices, they initiate more
high-energy electrons. Even at low dosage rates, gamma rays have a high penetration capacity. Gamma Medical
Irradiation is best suited for sterilizing large batches of medical equipment within a six to ten-hour cycle.
2. Electron-Beam Sterilization:
E-beam or electronic beam starts out as an extremely high-energy electron that is capable of destroying the bio-burden
of a medical component. These high-energy electrons also collide with other local electrons but the secondary electrons
have enough energy to adequately destroy the bio-burden resulting in an increase in the dose. Every succeeding
collision reduces the energy of the resulting electrons as the e-beam penetrates further into the medical device. This
process continues until there is no penetration power left in the e-beam. E-beam is known to have high dose rates and
low penetration power.
E-beam performs continuous sterilization of surgical instruments and delivers the required dose within one or two
minutes as the boxes of medical instruments pass by the e-beam accelerator one at a time. E-beam is ideal for delivering
specific irradiation doses into small batches of components as it allows faster turnaround time and more flexibility.
3. X-ray Sterilization:
X-ray sterilization allows unsurpassed dose uniformity performance compared to other medical sterilization processes.
X-rays have a unique property of narrow angular distribution concentrated in the direction of the product that is being
sterilized. X-ray radiation thoroughly treats the surface and the interiors of the equipment offering excellent penetration
Symec Engineers (India) Pvt Ltd is an International supplier of Gamma Irradiation plants. The company provides medical
irradiation of medical products and devices in their fully automated Gamma Irradiation Plants as a value-adding service
to provide its clients with safe, reliable, and state-of-the-art facilities to suit their requirements.