Definition of Autoclavable Endoscopes

About Autoclaves

Doctors use autoclaves to sterilize surgical equipment. The autoclave subjects equipment and supplies to high pressure steam reaching temperatures of 121 degrees Celsius or more. Charles Chamberland invented the autoclave in 1879, although a precursor had existed for 200 years previously.

Besides medical uses, veterinarians and microbiologists also use autoclaves for sterilization of equipment. As well, someone getting body piercings might have them done with tools that have been sterilized in an autoclave. Autoclaves may be used to sterilize glassware, medical waste, utensils, animal cages, etc.

Medical autoclaves, the sort used on autoclavable endoscopes, operate using steam. The hot steam inactivates all bacteria, viruses, fungi and spores. Even so, many objects used in surgery are one use only and are discarded rather than sterilized and reused.

About Endoscopes

Doctors, as well as people in other fields, such as engineers, use endoscopes. These tools allow a person to look inside of something. As such, an endoscope might be used to get a look inside an engine as well as a person. However, it is medical endoscopes that require sterilization.

An endoscope uses a fiber optic system to provide light and camera images back for the doctor. Older versions of these tools weren't capable of being used in autoclaves as the steam would damage the fiber optics and cause clouding of the images. Newer versions are designed to keep the steam out of the fiber optics. Yet both are still used and available.

An endoscope might be rigid or flexible. It contains a light source system in which the light source itself, which is outside the patient, is sent into the patient via fiber optics. The endoscope contains a lens system through which the doctor can view the organ, by means of having an image sent back from the fiberscope to a viewing screen. And the endoscope provides an additional channel in which instruments can be inserted into the patient for the surgeon's use.

In some autoclavable endoscopes, such as the ones built by Gore, fluoropolymer silicone composite technology is used, resulting in components that can withstand more autoclave cycles than most other autoclavable endoscopes. An autoclavable endoscope is an endoscope that can be sterilized in an autoclave without sustaining damage to its delicate fiber optic components. Older endoscopes weren't capable of surviving an autoclave and had to be either hand sterilized or were usable only once per patient. Both types of endoscopes are still in use, those that are autoclavable and those that aren't.