High-Tech Ozone Sterilizer Benefits Minimally Invasive Surgery

For Immediate Release
23 Oct 2008
Media Contact Kevin Robinson
802-447-5003

BENNINGTON — Ozone. You typically only hear about it in news reports on global warming or air pollution. Now there’s some good news about ozone. New technology installed at SVMC uses ozone to safely sterilize medical instruments. The new machine is especially useful on hard-to-sterilize instruments used in minimally invasive surgery. SVMC is the first hospital in New England to use the ozone sterilizer, which is made by TSO3, a Canadian company that specializes in the equipment.

Minimally invasive surgery is growing fast. The techniques allow surgeons to use special instruments called "scopes" and small incisions. The results are great for patients, who often go home the same day. But the instruments have complex lenses, plastic parts, and long narrow tubes. That makes them tough to sterilize. The new ozone sterilizer, called a Sterizone, works great at sterilizing these expensive, complex instruments.

“Medical instruments use more plastic than ever before,” explained Ruth Metcalfe, SVMC's patient services coordinator for perioperative services. “You can’t sterilize plastic in a steam autoclave because it melts” she said. “This new machine allows us to sterilize instruments with plastic components. That's critical as we use more minimally invasive techniques.

"At SVMC, we do as many minimally invasive procedures as possible, because it's good for patients," Metcalfe explained. "We want to make sure that these complicated surgical instruments are absolutely sterile when we use them. We chose the new Sterizone machine because it kills germs without damaging the instruments."

Safe for the environment
In addition, ozone sterilization is easy on the environment. It uses no toxic chemicals, only oxygen, water, and electricity. When the process is over, all that's left is water vapor and oxygen. There are no chemicals to buy and nothing to dispose of afterward. That reduces waste and helps SVMC control costs and keep the community healthy.

Best of all, it's safe for patients. Ozone is one of the most potent sterilants available. “Ozone is extremely effective at killing germs,” said Ruth Metcalfe. "And, unlike other ways to clean sensitive instruments, ozone doesn’t leave any residues. That makes it completely safe for surgery.”

The Sterizone ozone sterilizer is roughly the size of a refrigerator. In the 4.5 hour sterilization cycle, the hospital can sterilize a large batch of surgical instruments. The device has a screen that allows a sterilization technician to monitor the process. When the cycle is over, instruments are ready for immediate use or to be packaged for later surgeries.

Because it uses oxygen, water, and electricity, the Sterizone is economical and very reliable. It costs less than $1 per cycle. No toxic sterilizing chemicals to buy and no special protective gear for staff saves additional time and money for SVMC.

“This will be an outstanding addition to our surgical technology,” Metcalfe added. “It will help us reduce costs, keep the environment cleaner, and provide a safe way to sterilize some of our most challenging instruments.”

To learn more about SVMC's surgical expertise, visit our minimally invasive surgery section

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