Objective: Experiments were performed to determine the risk of bacterial contamination associated with changing outer gloves and using disposable spunlace paper versus reusable cloth gowns.
Background: Despite decades of research, there remains a lack of consensus regarding certain aspects of optimal aseptic technique including outer glove exchange while double-gloving and surgical gown type selection.
Methods: In an initial glove study, 102 surgical team members were randomized to exchange or retain outer gloves 1 hour into clean orthopedic procedures; cultures were obtained 15 minutes later from the palm of the surgeon's dominant gloved hand and from the surgical gown sleeve. Surgical gown type selection was recorded. A laboratory strike-through study investigating bacterial transmission through cloth and paper gowns was performed with coagulase-negative staphylococci. In a follow-up glove study, 251 surgical team members, all wearing paper gowns, were randomized as in the first glove study.
Results: Glove study 1 revealed 4-fold higher levels of baseline bacterial contamination (31% vs 7%) on the sleeve of surgical team members wearing cloth gowns than those using paper gowns [odds ratio (95% confidence interval): 4.64 (1.72–12.53); P = 0.0016]. The bacterial strike-through study revealed that 26 of 27 cloth gowns allowed bacterial transmission through the material compared with 0 of 27 paper gowns (P < 0.001). In glove study 2, surgeons retaining outer gloves 1 hour into the case had a subsequent positive glove contamination rate of 23% compared with 13% among surgeons exchanging their original outer glove [odds ratio (95% confidence interval): 1.97 (1.02–3.80); P = 0.0419].
Conclusions: Paper gowns demonstrated less bacterial transmission in the laboratory and lower rates of contamination in the operating room. Disposable paper gowns are recommended for all surgical cases, especially those involving implants, because of the heightened risk of infection. Outer glove exchange just before handling implant materials is also recommended to minimize intraoperative contamination.