Electronic Bowie-Dick type tests save 40 min per day!

10 May 2022

Bowie-Dick type tests are a commonplace and important manual maintenance check on all steam sterilizers - but with the new GEN5 Steam Sterilizers from Atherton the vital test is built-in.

Bowie-Dick tests are a common part of any CSSD manager’s life. Used to determine the air removing efficiency of a pre-vacuum steam sterilizer, different types of manual Bowie-Dick type tests have existed for almost 60 years. Atherton is proud to have changed this daily process with the introduction of electronic Bowie-Dick type tests to its GEN5 Steam Sterilizers.

The GEN5 Electronic Bowie Dick type test is an inbuilt self-test performed with each sterilization cycle that (in conjunction with annual calibration) remains highly accurate all year round. When used as part of the Sterilizers start of day sequence, the test can be performed automatically prior to the start of a shift, saving resources normally wasted carrying out the old-style testing, freeing staff up for other all-important tasks.

How it works

Effective sterilization dictates that the steam critically penetrates all surfaces of the devices being processed. Therefore, several tests must be performed to ensure that cycle parameters, steam and the sterilizer itself are all within specification. The efficiency of steam sterilization is achieved when steam gives up its latent heat, changing from steam to liquid when contacting items, thereby killing off any microscopic infectious material. An equivalent dry heat cycle requires a substantially higher temperature to produce the same lethal effect.

The Bowie-Dick test is utilised to check the air removing efficiency of a pre-vacuum steam sterilizer; an insulating or shielding pocket of air surrounding an object may prevent sterilization of that object.

Disposable Bowie Dick type tests require the user to dismantle the test device to retrieve the indicator.  The results on the indicator are often not easily visible and interpretation can change amongst users. Difficulties with chemical indicator storage over long time periods are also an issue and due to the disposable nature of the products, environmental factors should also be considered.

Electronic Bowie Dick type tests assess the important physical parameters of the sterilization process with far more accuracy than the disposable versions. Atherton’s Electronic Bowie Dick type test:

  • does not use disposable indicators,
  • does not require the operator to manually store results
  • does not need to cool down between cycles,
  • does not need stand-alone software,
  • does not use an interchangeable process challenge device.

An inbuilt self-test is performed with each cycle and in conjunction with annual calibration, the system remains highly accurate all year round.

The result is that operators do not have to purchase indicators, manually store results, or replace any component on a routine basis.

The GEN5 Electronic Bowie Dick type test’s detection limits are set to meet the requirements of ISO 11140-4, Sterilization of health care products – Class 2 indicators as an alternative to the Bowie and Dick-type test for detection of steam penetration.