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Surgical Gowns: Protection & Comfort

Surgical gowns play a crucial role in asepsis by reducing the transfer of bacteria from the skin of the surgical staff to the air in the operating room.  Wearing surgical gowns and other medical apparel (i.e. surgical masks, gloves, etc) is vital because there will always be microorganisms on or in the human skin, even after conducting strict hygienic and sterilization procedures.  The purpose of surgical gowns and other protective clothing is not only to keep bacteria from entering surgical wounds, but to also protect the surgical staff from blood, urine, saline, or other chemicals and bodily fluids during surgical procedures.


Surgical gowns with impermeable areas and edges will block the transfer of bacteria, viruses, infections, blood borne pathogens, and other harmful agents and chemicals to and from the patient.  Surgical gowns are widely considered to be the foremost item of protective equipment today.  Nonetheless, surgical gowns and surgical apparel have not been in standard use for very long.  Surgical gowns and apparel did not come into regular use in the surgical profession until the 1800s.  During those times, surgeons conducted their operations in auditorium or amphitheater-style rooms where the operation would take place in the center and the audience would sit in the surrounding seats.  Surgeons would typically wear their street clothes and occasionally wear something akin to a butcher's apron to protect his clothing from stains.  In fact, surgeons typically conducted operations with bare hands and non-sterile surgical instruments and supplies.


It wasn't until the late 1800s that the surgical world took notice of antiseptics, sterile equipment, and protective clothing.  This revolution was largely due to the pioneering research of Joseph Lister.  Lister used carbolic acid solution to sterilize surgical instruments, surgical incisions, and dressings in an effort to prevent gangrene and other infections.  He published numerous articles on the Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery describing these procedures in 1867.  He also encouraged surgeons to wear clean gloves and wash their hands before and after operations.  His research, articles, and life work led to the rise of sterile surgery.


Nonetheless, surgical gowns and other protective equipment didn't see wide use until much later.  During the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, surgeons began wearing cotton gauze masks and rubber gloves to protect them from the patient's disease.  It wasn't until the 1940's that advances in antisepsis and knowledge of infections led to the use of antiseptic drapes and surgical gowns.  Originally, medical scrubs and other surgical attire were white, in an effort to emphasize cleanliness.  However, the combination of bright lights, white rooms, and white clothing caused eyestrain in surgeons and staff.  Additionally, many people found the sight of blood splattered on these white gowns to be a bit distasteful, to say the least.  Therefore, the use of white surgical gowns and other apparel was abandoned and hospitals began to use various shades of green and blue surgical attire


As surgical procedures progressed throughout the twentieth century, surgical apparel saw greater usage and improvement.  But it wasn't until the 1980s when the biggest increase in use of surgical apparel began.  The AIDS epidemic has a lot to do with this.  Today, it is virtually unheard of that a surgical procedure is performed without full protective clothing to prevent infection of both the patient and surgical team.  Fortunately, maintaining and increasing that level of safety has become a main concern for a number of companies serving the surgical apparel market.  As a result, advancement in protective surgical apparel continues to be made.


After evaluating our inventory of surgical gowns, please call us toll-free at 1-877-706-4480 for any questions or assistance.

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