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The benefits of latex-free gloves in the operating room environment

28 May 2020
15 min read
Volume 29 · Issue 10


Sterile protective gloves are used to reduce the risk of infection for patients and clinicians in all healthcare settings. This is particularly important in operating theatres, where surgical site infection is a common and serious complication for perioperative patients. These gloves have traditionally been made from natural rubber latex and dusted with cornstarch powder. However, frequent use of latex gloves can lead to a hypersensitivity or allergy to latex. A latex allergy causes discomfort and inconvenience, and it may reduce productivity, impose significant financial burdens and even be life threatening. There has not been sufficient evidence to ban the clinical use of latex; however, in cases of suspected latex allergy, guidelines recommend the use of either latex-free gloves or powder-free, low-protein latex gloves. The use of these alternative gloves has typically been limited to cases of allergy, because they have previously been associated with reduced dexterity and durability compared with latex gloves. This article presents four case studies, in which health professionals in a perioperative setting compare the advantages and disadvantages of using traditional latex surgical gloves with those of latex-free gloves manufactured by Cardinal Health. The findings of these case studies suggest that these latex-free gloves are equal to latex gloves in terms of establishing asepsis and providing comfort and dexterity to the wearer, without presenting the risk of developing latex sensitivity and/or allergy.

Across healthcare settings patients and clinicians are potentially exposed to a variety of microorganisms that can cause infection (Blizzard et al, 2017). This is especially the case in operating theatres, where patients undergoing surgery are particularly vulnerable to surgical site infections (SSIs). SSIs lead to poorer outcomes and increase overall morbidity and mortality in surgical patients. In some cases, SSIs can increase costs by more than 300% (Whitehouse et al, 2002; Shao et al, 2017).

SSIs are typically multifactorial, but their common causes, such as the possibility of contamination during surgery, are generally preventable. The surgical team has a responsibility to eliminate these risk factors, and reducing the risk of infections and allergic reactions among patients and health professionals remains a principal focus across the healthcare setting (Blizzard et al, 2017).

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