Surgical gowns play an important role in preventing cross contamination and facilitating more efficiency for healthcare professionals. When you’re looking for operating room protection (also known as PPE or personal protective equipment), surgical gowns are your first line of defense. Read More...
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The Ultimate Guide to Surgical Gowns
When you’re looking for a medical gown, your search will differ greatly depending on the type of gown you are looking for. However, there are three common things you will need to verify before deciding on the best medical gown:
I. Protection. The number one consideration will be how much protection the gown provides. To determine this factor, check the coverage area as well as the material type and thickness. We will explore these options in more detail later on.
II. Convenience. Healthcare professionals who use gowns for any reason must be able to continue working efficiently. For this reason, it is important that their gowns are flexible and roomy.
III. Comfort. To promote efficient work and happy staff, it's important that surgical gowns be comfortable for their wearers. Considering comfort features such as an open back for airflow, knit cuffs, or any of the additional features we will discuss shortly, can make a big difference for users.
Types of Surgical Gowns
Medical gowns are suitable for high or low contact situations. These gowns are the solution when anticipating contact with infectious materials; when used with medical gloves and other protective apparel, they are the way to keep as safe as possible in such situations.
- Isolation Gowns: Some procedure gowns are fluid resistant, and can be used as isolation gowns. A proper isolation gown will be impervious to fluids. Since several types of medical gowns feature this necessary fluid resistance, if you’re looking for an isolation gown, start by finding the right gown, and then check to make sure it is fluid resistant.
- Coveralls: These protective "gowns" are the ideal gear to wear if you are involved in hazardous waste remediation, environmental cleanup, or petrochemical refining. They also provide workers with protection against blood borne pathogens in forensic or other environments where exposure to blood is possible. They are eminently suitable for acid and caustic handling, biohazard cleanup, tank cleaning, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and other employment positions which necessitate taking such precautions.
Surgical Gowns vs. Patient Gowns
There are two primary types of medical gowns; surgical gowns for staff and patient gowns. Although these gowns are often grouped together, their functions are actually quite different from one another. Surgical gowns for medical staff provide necessary protection, while patient gowns primarily serve to provide easier access than regular clothes.
Surgical gowns are generally worn by medical professionals over their scrubs at times when they are anticipating contact with infectious materials. By contrast, patient gowns serve as primary coverage and are designed to allow caregivers to work efficiently.
Because of this distinction, the designs of the gowns differ greatly. For example, most surgical gowns are designed with long sleeves and tight cuffs to keep the germs out, while patient gowns generally feature short sleeves without cuffs to allow for easy IV access.
Another differentiation is that patient gowns that have more coverage in the back are preferred for privacy reasons, while surgical gowns are usually worn over scrubs and therefore feature an open back (as the situation allows), and are conducive for increased airflow.
If you're looking for a patient gown, check out our patient apparel category.
Reusable vs. Disposable
In general, medical gowns are designed for single-use to prevent cross-contamination and are therefore disposable. However, there are some reusable gown options that can be washed between uses and these may be preferred in certain situations.
Better Material Means Better Protection
When considering surgical gowns, the material quality combined with the coverage area directly determines the protection level. There are several levels of protection to consider, which is critical when considering surgical gowns.
A lightweight gown crafted from a multi-ply single layer fabric affords basic protection to the wearer, a medium weight gown provides even more protection, and a heavyweight surgical gown provides maximum protection.
Different materials will often feature various features. Some fabrics are more durable for tough duties, some are more lightweight for comfort and breathability, and others have passed ASTM for blood or viral penetration resistance.
The range of materials is quite vast, with each fabric featuring unique benefits. A spunbonded scrub gown, for example, provides basic protection, and is common wear during lightweight procedures. Polypropylene, chlorinated polyethylene and cotton are just a few choices of fabrics that medical gowns are available in today.
Specialized materials include a cotton/polyester blend, which offers the comfort of cotton while the poly prevents the gown from shrinking in the wash, and polyethylene-coated polypropylene, which ensures imperviousness.
Sleeves & Cuffs
There are several sleeve and cuff styles you can choose from, and each serve different functions.
Surgical gowns generally feature long sleeves that extend until the wrist and often boast cuffs, for even more protection.
The cuffs are another important consideration. The following are the main cuff options available:
- Straight Cuffs: Products that are listed with straight cuffs do not feature any cuffs.
- Elastic or Knit Cuffs: If you need cuffs to help keep your sleeves down while you work, you can choose between no-nonsense elastic cuffs or knit cuffs, which are softer and more comfortable.
- Ankle Cuffs: Most gowns will only feature wrist cuffs, but in the case of overalls, you will have an option of choosing a product that features ankle cuffs as well.
- Thumb Loop Cuffs: Also known as stirrup cuffs, this cuff type protects vulnerable wrist areas by providing complete wrist coverage so that no skin is exposed under your gloves. Thumb loops are popular among nurses because they save valuable time by preventing sleeves from sliding up while donning gloves.
The type of closure you choose will affect comfort, convenience and coverage.
Waist and neck ties allow for individual adjustment, so that you can find your most comfortable fit. Other types of closures include Velcro hook and loop, front or back snaps, a zipper front on a coverall, or a tape tab neck are great options to look for when finding the perfect medical gown. There’s also an open back style which comes with a waist belt.
Some surgical gowns may be equipped with an over-the-head style to allow for an open back without sacrificing proper protection. These types of gowns are pulled over the head and tied at the waist like an apron. An apron-style neck also enables the gown to be removed quickly.
There are shorter gowns, and there are longer ones. Longer ones have large coverage areas for more protection. Surgical gowns that are designed with full backs allow for 360 degree protection in stringent conditions. When 360 degree coverage is unnecessary, an open back on a surgical gown allows for maximum airflow. If the torso is only area that needs protection, it may be worth considering an apron-style gown, which will offer the most comfort and airflow.
Since the seamless chest area is the primary splash zone, this exposure area should always be kept covered.
Fit can be important in a medical gown. A good fit is crucial to ensuring that the gown is comfortable. Medical gowns are generally crafted in such a way that one size fits most, but larger sizes are available for those who require them. Ties and belts are often helpful in customizing the fit to the wearer.
Besides for the considerations already covered, there are many little details in surgical gowns that may be convenient and/or useful to medical professionals, such as the following:
- Pockets: Nurses and other professionals find these pockets to be quite practical; they use them to keep things they need on hand.
- Wick-away Lining: This feature wicks away sweat, and allows the wearer to feel fresher than ever.
- Latex-free: This is important for medical professionals who will be working with patients who are sensitive to latex.
- Non-linting: For medical professionals who will be wearing reusable gowns over their clothes or scrubs, non-linting material is a great advantage.
- Microporous Film Layer: This lining will allow sweat and heat to escape the scrub gown, while protecting against dry particulates and liquid.
- Strong Sealed Seams: These uphold the quality of your gown and are ideal when working in tough conditions.
- Color-Coded Neck: A color-coded neck is used to indicate the surgical gown’s AAMI level.