The Bowie-Dick test should be performed daily, whenever the sterilizer is in use, and before the first processed load. If your sterilizers remain on continuously, you should perform the test at the same time each day. A Bowie-Dick test pack uses a Type 2 chemical indicator for the test. The pre-assembled pack provides consistency in pack preparation. Always follow the test pack manufacturer’s instructions for use, storage and interpretation.
The test pack should be placed horizontally in the front, bottom section of the sterilizer rack or cart, near the door and over the drain, in an otherwise empty chamber. The test pack is the only item on the sterilizer cart. Using anything other than a sterilizer cart does not represent how the loads are run therefore, the pack should always be placed on the cart or bottom rack (for those sterilizers without a cart), The Bowie-Dick test is conducted in an empty chamber to maximize the potential for detecting that steam penetrates the sterile load and that no air is in the chamber. Other packs in the chamber would entrain a percentage of the air and reduce the sensitivity of the test.
The test is conducted using an abbreviated cycle. Some sterilizers are set-up with a Bowie-Dick test cycle already programmed in. Usually the cycle time is 3.5 to 4.0 minutes with no dry time. The test should never be run longer than that 4-minute exposure. If longer exposure times are used, the test should be considered invalid and the results meaningless; even an extra minute could affect the results.
Most manufacturers recommend a warm-up cycle be run before performing the Bowie-Dick test. Check with your sterilizer and Bowie-Dick test pack manufacturer to see if this is recommended. A sterilizer tested from a “cold start” (after the sterilizer has been turned on and before a load is processed) might produce false failures unless it is preheated to operating temperature by running at least one empty-chamber cycle.