2011 IUSS Position Paper
"Flash sterilization" has traditionally been used to describe steam sterilization cycles where unwrapped medical instruments are subjected to an abbreviated steam exposure time and then used promptly after cycle completion without being stored. This is in contrast to traditional "terminal sterilization" cycles, where instruments are sterilized within containers, wrappers, or primary packaging designed to maintain the instruments' sterility and allow the devices to be stored for later use. The term "flash" arose out of the abbreviated time of exposure of the unwrapped device.
Today, however, "flash sterilization" is an antiquated term that does not fully describe the various steam sterilization cycles now used to process items not intended to be stored for later use. Current guidelines may require longer exposure times and/or the use of single wrappers or containers designed to allow for aseptic transfer of an item to the point of use. The term "immediate-use steam sterilization" more accurately reflects the current use of these processes. The same critical reprocessing steps (such as cleaning, decontaminating, and transporting sterilized items) must be followed regardless of the specific sterilization cycle employed; a safe process does not include short-cuts or work-arounds.
"Immediate use" is broadly defined as the shortest possible time between a sterilized item's removal from the sterilizer and its aseptic transfer to the sterile field. Immediacy implies that a sterilized item is used during the procedure for which it was sterilized and in a manner that minimizes its exposure to air and other environmental contaminants. A sterilized item intended for immediate use is not stored for future use, nor held from one case to another. Immediacy, rather than being defined according to a specific time frame, is established through the critical analysis and expert collaboration of the health care team.
Click here to download the full Immediate Use Steam Sterilization Position Paper.