test is used in pre-vacuum type (or
dynamic air removal)
sterilizers. They are used to detect air leaks and
inadequate air removal and consist of folded 100% cotton
surgical towels that are clean and preconditioned. A
commercially available Bowie-Dick-type test sheet should be
placed in the center of the pack.
The test pack
should be placed horizontally in the front, bottom section
of the sterilizer rack, near the door and over the drain, in
an otherwise empty chamber and run at 134°C for 3.5
minutes. The test is used each day the vacuum-type steam
sterilizer is used, before the first processed load.
Air that is
not removed from the chamber will interfere with steam
contact. Smaller, commercially available disposable test
process challenge devices)
have been devised to replace the stack of folded surgical
towels for testing the efficacy of the vacuum system in a
pre vacuum sterilizer.
be representative of the load and simulate the greatest
challenge to the load. Sterilizer vacuum performance is
acceptable if the sheet inside the test pack shows a uniform
color change. Entrapped air will cause a spot to appear on
the test sheet, due to the inability of the steam to reach
the chemical indicator. If the sterilizer fails the
Bowie-Dick test, do not use the sterilizer until it is
inspected by the sterilizer maintenance personnel and passes
the Bowie-Dick test.
complete recommendations on sterilizer and disinfection at
“Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare
also stocks Bowie-Dick tests – see