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Bead baths: a sanitary alternative to water baths Using metal beads to heat and cool: efficient, sanitary, sustainable
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Bead baths: a sanitary alternative to water baths

Using metal beads to heat and cool: efficient, sanitary, sustainable

Utrecht Medical Center’s Nuclear Medicine unit uses bead baths as a sanitary solution for thawing radiopharmaceuticals. Heated beads do the job just as quickly as water.
The use of water baths for heating and cooling purposes comes with a list of familiar complaints: low water levels, limescale on the edges, and drips and spills when removing materials from the bath. Not to mention the wet mess created when baths are emptied. More importantly, water baths can be a microbiological hazard. Reason enough for UMC’s Nuclear Medicine department to invest in a metal bead bath.
www.labinsights.nl ©maXus media Using metal beads to heat and cool: efficient, sanitary, sustainable Bead baths: a sanitary alternative to water baths Utrecht Medical Center’s Nuclear Medicine unit uses bead baths as a sanitary solution for thawing radiopharmaceuticals. Heated beads do the job just as quickly as water. Wouter Oude Groothuis | Translation: Word’s Worth | Photography: FOODnote The use of water baths for heating and cooling purposes comes with a list of familiar complaints: low water levels, limescale on the edges, and drips and spills when removing materials from the bath. Not to mention the wet mess created when baths are emptied. More importantly, water baths can be a microbiological hazard. Reason enough for UMC’s Nuclear Medicine department to invest in a metal bead bath. Bacterial growth The Nuclear Medicine lab develops new radiopharmaceuticals and radiotherapeuticals. There are strict guidelines for these radioactive preparations and the use of water baths for heating and cooling them is forbidden. This means special lab facilities and equipment are needed, but these can be affordable, says Remmert de Roos, research analyst and quality assurance manager at the Nuclear Medicine unit. “The radiopharmaceuticals we work with are generally intended for patients with inoperable tumors. These patients are injected with a preparation that attaches to specific receptors on the tumor cells. Different types of radiopharmaceuticals are used for PET scan imaging or scintigraphy (gamma ray imaging). If we find irregularities that LAB EQUIPMENT Remmert de Roos, quality assurance manager at UMC’s Nuclear Medicine unit, says “for sanitary reasons, we prefer not to use water baths to thaw deep-frozen radiopharmaceuticals.” ‘Baths are ‘clean’ because the beads can be disinfected with alcohol’ are cause for further treatment, we can inject another preparation with another type of radioactive element for radiation of the tumor—local radiotherapy. Sometimes, these preparations need to be thawed shortly before use in a water bath, because some preparations are less stable at ambient temperature. The deep-frozen therapeutic preparations are preferably thawed in a cleanroom, where water baths are forbidden because of potential bacterial growth.” Solution To replace the water in baths, the Utrecht lab chose to work with specially developed multifunctional beads. These prevent contamination and scaling and guarantee the baths used are ‘clean’ because the beads can be disinfected with alcohol. Thanks to February 2020 | LABinsights 36 www.labinsights.nl ©maXus media Radioactive preparations are thawed in a bead bath for one hour, shortly before they are used on a patient. This is an efficient and sanitary solution. Advantages Advantages of water bath beadsof water bath beads X No need for disinfection; the beads can be cleaned with alcohol X The beads are energy efficient; they conduct heat and cold well X Using beads saves several hundred liters of water per year X No need to use watertight tubes X The beads are reusable and therefore better for the environment X Annoyances like limescale are a thing of the past. Disadvantage: although the beads conduct heat well, they are slightly slower to heat than water. More information (in Dutch) is available at: www.boomlab.nl/assortiment/benodigdheden/www.boomlab.nl/assortiment/benodigdheden/ beadsbeads the beads, there is no need for germicides or warm water bath disinfection, refilling, emptying or rinsing. This saves time and money. And it is also convenient that the erlenmeyer flasks, bottles, point tubes and multiwell plates can simply be placed in a bath of beads without any kind of rack, with no danger of bathwater seeping in. Lab Armor’s recyclable beads — supplied by Boom — can be used at temperatures ranging from -8 ºC to 3,200 ºC. This also makes them suitable for transporting deep-frozen samples from the freezer to a work bench instead of ice from an ice machine. Transfer LAB EQUIPMENT Not all water baths are suitable for the use of metal beads, says De Roos: “The supplier told me which ones were and weren’t. Fortunately, ours were fine. We didn’t have to purchase other water baths. I was also told to heat the baths not only from the bottom, but also from the sides, as this speeds up the heat transfer to the beads.” De Roos says he can only think of one disadvantage of using the beads. “They transfer heat less efficiently than water. I only know what it’s like to heat up a pharmaceutical preparation in a heavy lead container, packed in dry ice with a temperature of -80 ºC. From my own observation, I can say that thawing in a bead bath takes longer, but not that much longer. It takes 60 minutes instead of 50. That’s a difference we can live with.” February 2020 | LABinsights 37
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