Medical supplies of drapes, gowns and other protective apparel should be selected based on safety and efficiency for the hospital. Due to the large amount of healthcare-acquired infections (HAI), it is important to make sure all medical equipment and personnel are fully protected against the transmission of pathogens. This is especially critical in the operating theatre, which tends to be an area where infection control is a challenge due to the perpetual flow of patients and staff performing an array of procedures.

Selecting materials that are comfortable but also offer protection against biological fluids to the surgical team and their equipment is imperative. This begs the question: What are some of the benefits of single-use products versus reusable products in the operating environment?

Single-Use versus Reusable Textiles

The selection of medical textiles is an important subject for the healthcare sector in terms of benefits and costs, especially when the patient and surgeon’s lives are in consideration.¹

Barrier Protection

One of the most important criteria for textiles in the operating environment is barrier protection, without this, there would be no reason to wear a gown or drape a patient. The textiles could be reusable or disposable, disposable items are single-use and nonwoven while reusable items are multiple use and woven.² A European study concluded that the microbial-penetration resistance of single-use nonwoven surgical textiles is superior to that of reusable textiles, highlighting that the reusable products showed a lower liquid resistance than required in critical areas.² Disposable gowns not only help protect staff but also can reduce the transmission of pathogens and bacteria from reusable fabrics to the patient. An improperly laundered table cover or gown could still contain microorganisms from the previous procedure transferring to the new patient as a possible infection. Single use disposable textiles are manufactured in a sterile environment and packed in PE bags making it virtually impossible to be pre disposed to any pathogens prior to operation.

Performance

Reusable cotton or synthetic gowns may reduce clinical waste however they do start to deteriorate over the course of their life. At the time of purchase, the fabric is at its strongest but through repeated use and laundering, it can breakdown. At any given point in the gown or drapes life it will have a different level of barrier protection, and although it meets the standards when first purchased it may not after three or four months of use. On the other hand, single use disposable drapes and gowns have consistent barrier protection and are always used at their highest quality. Using reliable materials in the operating environment helps to maintain optimal level of safety.

Cleaning

When deciding amongst single use disposable gowns, drapes and table linens versus reusable ones safety is something to consider. The protection and performance of the fabric has already been discussed in regards to the patient and healthcare staff however, infection control practitioners must be aware that the handling of healthcare facility laundry and linen poses risks to another population of hospital workers. Laundry personnel are responsible for processing hundreds of thousands of pounds of contaminated reusable linens annually and can be at risk for injury if precautions are not taken.³ Table linens from the operating environment can contain bodily fluid and other harmful bacteria that could potentially pose a risk of transmission for the employees if not handled properly. With single use disposable linens there is no need to wash or handle the contaminated items therefore there is no risk to laundry personnel. This is just another benefit of using a single use gowns and drapes in the OR.

Lint and Other Airborne Particles

Lint and other airborne particles are cause for growing concern within the OR. To maximise healing of a patient undergoing a procedure with an open wound it is imperative to limit the amount of foreign particles that it could be exposed to. Reusable drapes and gowns produce lint, lint is small fibers that become separated from the surface of cloth during processing. This small debris could get into surgical wounds contaminating them and potentially causing complications. While it is virtually impossible to eliminate 100% of lint and other airborne particles, it is however possible to significantly reduce them. A study done in 2013 showed that single-use textiles made up of polypropylene worn during surgery had significantly lower colony-forming units than reusable textiles made of a mixed material cotton and polyester.4

Environmental Impact

It is a common belief that single use disposable textiles are more of an environmental burden than reusable textiles, however an argument could be made that it is not truly the case. Reusable linens use approximately 4.5 times more resources than single-use disposable ones, mainly because of the water needed for laundering.5 Chemicals used during the laundry process can also be harmful to the flora when expelled into the sewers. In terms of production of the fabrics, a study shows that they have a similar impact on the environment. Cotton harvesting for the manufacturing of reusable garments usually requires use of pesticides and single-use garments main materials are man-made and produced from oil which contributes to the reduction of natural resources. The disposal of single use products are a source of concern of adding to medical waste, but according to new research there are many opportunities for long-term strategies and green initiatives with disposable textiles. One of them being the use of pelletised garment waste as a replacement for coal in power plants and other combustion applications.5

Why Choose QuickSuite?

QuickSuite® is a kit that contains an assortment of disposable components used to easily and efficiently set up and clean up the operating table before and after surgery. The kit includes the Sahara OR table sheet, arm board covers, headboard covers and lift sheet. Different kit compositions are available to satisfy all procedural needs and components can be ordered separately. QuickSuite® OR Table Kits contain everything needed to quickly set up the operating able for a procedure.

Promote Patient and Staff Safety

  • The absorbent layer of the sheet protects the patient during surgery reducing moisture, helping to prevent skin breakdown.
  • The disposable design reduces the risk of cross contamination.
  • The sealed edges of the components prevent linting.
  • The lift sheet allows for a safe and easy transfer of the patient.

Improve Operating Room Efficiency

  • The impervious layer of the Sahara sheet protects the operating table from harboring bacteria.
  • The OR turnover time is reduced thanks to a quicker and less intense clean up of the operating room between surgical procedures.

Reduce Costs

  • No laundry costs are needed thanks to the disposable design.

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References
¹ American Journal of Infection Control, Application of cost/benefit analysis for surgical gown and drape selection: A case study, available at: http://www.ajicjournal.org
² https://textlnfo.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/reusable-vs-disposable.pdf 

³ Infection Control Today, Lessons in Linen - Following Aseptic Technique in the Laundry Department, available at: http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com
4 National Center for Biotechnology Information, Single-use surgical clothing system for reduction of airborne bacteria in the operating room., available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23694760
5 The Mcilvaine Company, A White Paper on Performance, Cost Per Use, and Environmental Impact of Single-Use and Reusable Surgical Gowns & Drapes, available at: http://www.mcilvainecompany.com

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