How EO Device Sterilization Works (And Its Advantages)

Ethylene oxide (EO) is an EPA-approved, non-flammable gas that has been used for many years to sterilize critical medical devices. The term "critical" denotes devices that come in direct contact with the patient's blood or other bodily fluids or tissues during use. EO device sterilization ensures safe medical devices are used in hospitals by inhibiting the growth of microorganisms that can cause diseases.

When is EO Device Sterilization Recommended?

Ethylene oxide device is used to disinfect or sterilize devices that cannot be subjected to steam sterilization. These devices include flexible endoscopes, arthroscopes, laparoscopes, large-bore needles, and well-baby warmers.

EO device sterilization is also used for a wide variety of equipment that cannot withstand autoclaving or dry heat sterilization, including plastic items, metal implants, flexible scopes, catheters, tracheal tubes, wound drainage bags, and dialysis equipment.

How Does EO Device Sterilization Work?

Ethylene oxide is first released into a pressurized chamber, where it becomes a gas. The gas is then circulated throughout the chamber to remove any air pockets. Once the chamber is completely filled with gas, it is brought up to the desired temperature needed for sterilization. The actual sterilization process then begins.

Why Should You Consider EO Sterilization Services?

Ethylene oxide is an effective sterilization method that does not damage medical equipment or degrade its functional or mechanical properties throughout the sterilization process or after repeated sterilizations. For example, EO will not change the appearance, dimensions, surface finish, or weld joint integrity of stainless steel. It also has the added benefit of being able to sterilize porous materials, such as woven textiles and leather, using lower concentrations than steam autoclave or dry heat methods.

Additionally, unlike steam or radiation sterilization that can damage delicate instruments during processing, EO device sterilization involves only intermittent exposure of the devices to the gas, reducing risks associated with exposure to the sterilant.

Also, EO can penetrate into crevices or restricted areas where high levels of microbial contamination are present. It penetrates the cell wall and nucleus of microorganisms resulting in disruption of genetic material, which inhibits reproduction and renders these organisms unable to cause infection.

More significantly, EO device sterilization can provide high levels of sterility assurance with lower bioburden requirements compared to other methods (requires reduced cycle times).


Ethylene oxide is a chemical gaseous sterilization product that works by denaturing proteins. EO device sterilization is typically more expensive than the approved alternatives, but it can be used to achieve sterility in complex geometries and on specific materials that are difficult to clean.

For more information on EO device sterilization, contact a professional near you.