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Personal Protective Equipment: Medical Gowns

PPE: Understanding Medical Gowns

Medical gowns are a type of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used by medical professionals such as dental hygienists, nurses, doctors, and surgeons to prevent them from coming into contact with bodily fluids. In some instances, medical gowns may also be used to protect patients from infection.

There is a wide variety of medical gowns available. For example, some hospitals and clinics use disposable medical gowns to minimize waste and purchasing and laundry costs. Medical gowns may be specially designed with different features to protect healthcare workers and patients during different clinical situations.

Types of Medical Gown

Typically, medical gowns are made from lightweight fabric, such as cotton. They are designed to provide optimum protection within a clinical environment. Standard medical gowns are available in a range of colors though the most common PPE medical gowns are blue.

They are most often made with adjustable tie belts at the back so that they can be easily fitted to any size and they are simple to remove. It is vital that surgeons and their assistants wear PPE medical gowns to protect them from direct contact with any form of infection and other health issues while performing an operation.

Key Features of PPE Medical Gowns

There are several types of PPE medical gown, such as:

PPE Non-surgical Gowns

Non-surgical gowns are considered to be Class one medical devices and are designed to protect the user from coming into contact with body fluids and infectious microorganisms in low or minimal-risk environments. Non-surgical gowns are not designed for use during invasive or surgical procedures or in clinical envirnomants where the risk of contamination is high.

Non-surgical gowns cover most of the body and all areas of the garment are rated for critical protection except for the hems, binding, and cuffs. This means that the main body of the gown and the seams have a high liquid barrier protection.

PPE Thumb-Loop Gowns

Thumb-looped gowns are a form of cover-all gowns that have thumb loops attached to the wrists. This prevents the sleeves from riding up your arms when you are pulling on surgical gloves. The gowns are typically made from 100% polyethylene that has a high liquid barrier protection. They are one size and are easy to slip on and off.

PPE Surgical Medical Gowns

Surgical gowns are designed to cover most of the body while allowing flexible movement. They are available in customizable sizes. Surgical gowns differ from non-surgical and thumb-loop gowns in that they have knitted cuff sleeves to keep them in place. They also have ties at the waist.

This type of gown is generally used when the risk of contamination in a healthcare facility is medium to high. For example, when dealing with contagious infections or during surgery.

PPE Coverall Gowns

PPE coverall gowns give you the maximum protection when you are in a clinical environment where you are at high risk of contamination from bodily fluids that can transmit infection or disease.

A coverall gown is typically made from plastic or another waterproof material. This type of gown completely covers your body, some designs even cover the feet. They are designed not only to protect your body but also the clothes you are wearing underneath the gown. They are ideal for frontline medical practitioners who are dealing with patients with COVID-19.

PPE Isolation Gowns

Isolation gowns provide dependable and consistent protection and are made from breathable material. They are typically made with two-ply fabric and come in light and medium weight options. Because they are made from polypropylene, they have full fluid barrier protection and a low linting risk.

  • Reusable gowns: Typically, reusable gowns are made from fabric and are sterilized after each use. How many times a reusable gown can be worn will depend on its specified protection level. For example, if it is surgical, it may be used more times than an isolation gown. Often a gown will have a designated number of disinfecting cycles before disposal.
  • Single-use gowns: These gowns are disposed of safely after only one use. They are often made of films or non-woven polymers. The benefits of single-use gowns are that they are less expensive to purchase and they eliminate the costs of maintenance and laundering.

PPE Medical Gown FAQ

Is the fit of my medical gown important?

How well your medical gown fits is crucial. If it does not fit properly, you may not be getting full protection and it may even pose a hazard. For example, if the gown is too large, it could cause you to trip, if there is too much skin exposure because the neck does not fit well, you could be at risk of contamination, and if the gown is too small you may have insufficient coverage and the gown could be prone to tearing.

What are my medical gown’s critical zones?

A medical gown’s critical zones are defined as areas that are most likely to come into contact with infectious body fluids. For example, the critical zones of a low to medium risk surgical gown are the front of the garment, (from the chest to the knees) and the sleeves. For isolation gowns, the critical zones also include the rest of the gown except the bindings, hems, and cuffs. On either gown, all seams and belt attachments must meet rigorous standards as laid out by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI).

Are thumb loops important in a medical gown?

The purpose of thumb loops is to ensure that the sleeves of the gown stay in place beneath your surgical gloves to prevent your wrists from being exposed. This type of gown is highly recommended when the risk of contamination by bodily fluid contact is high.

What type of gown should I use when dealing with patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?

The CDC recommends that you wear non-sterile, disposable, isolation gowns when dealing with patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. These should be provided by the healthcare facility that employs you.

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