In most areas requirements call for weekly spore tests to confirm proper operation of your sterilizer. While each pouch, cassette or similar container in a load will include indicators, only a spore test can truly confirm the ability of your sterilizer to perform the task for which it was designed. What happens if your sterilizer fails a spore test?
Naturally, you need to immediately remove the sterilizer from service until you can determine what problem there is (if any) and then attend to it as appropriate. The next thing to do is then run another spore test. According to a study by the University of Iowa (quite some time ago) the primary cause of failed spore tests is improper handling of the test leading to contamination of the sample and not an actual failure of the sterilizer. So, repeat the test and be very careful of how it is handled. At the same time, observe the cycle as your sterilizer processes the test vial. For autoclaves or chemiclavs, look for signs of steam leakage, watch the gauges to confirm appropriate pressure (30 psi) and temperature (275°F) are achieved. This temperature and pressure should be maintained for at least 3 minutes, so have an external timer handy as well. Note any discrepancies so you can address these issues regardless of the outcome of the 2nd test.
If all checks out ok and your subsequent test is ok, you needn’t worry further. If the test again fails or if you see issues with leakage, maintaining temperature and pressure, or have any other concerns, then you need to start looking more carefully at your sterilizer. It’s always good to start with routine maintenance items attending to any that may be close to due (or overdue). Most of these things I’ve discussed many times before but feel free to post questions if you are uncertain of what these things are. Subscribers can also reach out to me with make and model for direct assistance and potential issues unique to what equipment they have.