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How to Choose the Right Surgical Gowns


When you're deciding which Surgical Gowns to purchase for your staff, there are many options available to you. You can choose from a variety of sizes, protection levels, material, cuff designs, sleeve designs, and more. The range of choices could make it difficult to know which Gowns are best for specific procedures and staff members.

Having the correct Surgical Gowns for certain operations and environments is critical to ensuring employee and patient protection, preventing surgical site infections (SSIs), and maintaining a sterile environment. To ensure you make the right choice, you first have to understand what the procedure being performed is, what level of protection is needed, and the role of the person wearing the Surgical Gown.

Note: Content within this article has been compiled from a variety of sources as noted including the FDA and CDC. Welmed manufactures Surgical Gowns and provides product information to support the purchasing specifications required by our customers for purchasing decisions.

How much protection should your Surgical Gown provide?

Different types of Surgical Gowns offer varying levels of protection. The FDA recognizes the four levels of protection outlined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Association of the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). Increasing in protection from one to four, these levels indicate the type of procedures a specific Gown is suited for.

  • Level 1—Designed for minimal risk operations, Level 1 Surgical Gowns are ideal for basic care, standard isolation, and cover Gowns for visitors.
  • Level 2—Intended for low risk procedures, Level 2 Surgical Gowns are designed for blood draw, suturing, and to be worn in the intensive care unit or pathology lab.
  • Level 3—For use in moderate risk environments, Level 3 Surgical Gowns are perfect for arterial blood draw, inserting an IV line, and to be worn in the emergency room and during trauma cases.
  • Level 4—Level 4 Surgical Gowns are designed for long, high risk, high fluid procedures, or situations in which infectious diseases are thought to be present.

What type of procedure will be performed?

Surgical operations vary greatly, as do the Gowns required for each one. Before choosing the best Gown, you have to ask yourself what type of procedure your team will be wearing them for. More invasive procedures require the surgeon to put their hands inside the patient's body cavity, increasing their risk of exposure to pathogens or other microorganisms. In those cases, the doctor will need a Level 4 protection Surgical Gown. These Gowns act as a barrier between the surgeon and the patient's blood present during the operation.

With a simple excision biopsy, on the other hand, there is not a high risk of contamination to the operating staff, meaning they require a less protective Surgical Gown. Determining the type of procedure and associated risk is critical to knowing what type of Gown is needed.

How much fluid will you come in contact with?

This question is closely linked to the type of procedure and risk level. If you anticipate an operation to involve contact with high levels of bodily fluids and potential fluid spray, you need a Surgical Gown that offers significant fluid barrier protection.

Although the FDA discourages the use of words like "impervious" or "impermeable" because they are easily misinterpreted and potentially misleading, different Gowns do offer varying levels of protection against contact with fluids. For example, Surgical Gowns made from synthetic materials generally do a better job blocking fluids, making them a better choice for high fluid level surgeries.

How long will the surgery or operation last?

Typically, the longer the procedure lasts, the higher protection level needed for your staff's Surgical Gowns. Longer, more intense operations increase the risk of contamination and exposure to microorganisms when compared to shorter, more routine procedures. For that reason, when choosing the best Surgical Gown for a particular operation, it's very important to ask how long that particular operation will last.

What is the clinician's role in the procedure?

Not everyone in the operating room performs the same role or comes into the same type of contact with the patient, so not everyone may require the same type of Surgical Gown. Surgeons who are near the patient and have their hands inside the patient's body cavity require a Gown that provides a higher level of protection. On the other hand, for the surgical technician or anesthesiologist a lower level of protection with a different type of Surgical Gown may be sufficient.

Other factors to consider when choosing Surgical Gowns

In addition to the questions outlined above, it's also very important to consider whether you need a Surgical Gown or a Surgical Isolation Gown. Due to a heightened risk of contamination, critical protection zones on Surgical Isolation Gowns include all areas except the bindings, cuffs, and hems. For non-isolation Surgical Gowns, the critical zones of protection only include the front of the body from the shoulder to the knees and the arms from the elbow to wrist.

Other considerations include Gown flammability, important for oxygen enriched operating rooms, as well as lint generation, resistance to tears, comfort, and environmental friendliness. If your surgeon is working on a very long procedure, for example, adequate protection as well as breathability and comfort are needed.

The bottom line is that there are a wide variety of options that suit specific operational needs. Consider all the factors above when deciding which Surgical Gowns to purchase for your facility.

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