Ethylene Oxide Sterilization

A Commonly Used Sterilization Process


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Ethylene Oxide (EO) is a low temperature gas that can penetrate thin films and breathable materials in order to sterilize effectively.

EO is an alkylating agent and alters the amino acids that make up a microorganism's proteins, DNA and RNA.

EO is most useful when a product cannot be exposed to heat, humidity, or radiation and thus is useful for a wide variety of medical devices that aren't enabled through other processes. For most types of thin films and breathable packaging EO will penetrate through and sterilize effectively.

Benefits

  • Provides a low-temperature processing environment that is gentle on adhesives, bonding agents and materials of construction.
  • Useful for long cannulated polymeric constructed devices
  • Able to sterilize heat or moisture-sensitive products
  • Least potential for product material degradation and widest material compatibility

Limitations

  • Lengthy cycle, aeration and post-processing duration
  • Materials with high absorption rates such as silicone may exhibit high levels of “residuals” that can pose cytotoxicity challenges.
  • Potential for hazardous exposure to patients and staff
  • Processing Environment risks include flammability and explosive potential