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Clean gloves no worse than sterile for wound infections

Doctors can use clean, boxed gloves rather than the more expensive for minor surgical procedures without fear of increasing the risk of wound infections, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Researchers from in far north Queensland randomly assigned patients needing minor surgery in a Mackay primary care clinic to either using clean boxed gloves, or the control group using sterile gloves.

Of the 478 patients providing data, 43 had developed a by the time they came to have stitches removed, an overall of 9.0%.

The infection rate in the clean, boxed gloves group of 8.7% was significantly non-inferior to that of the sterile gloves group (9.3%).

“In regard to wound infection, non-sterile clean boxed gloves are not inferior to sterile gloves for minor skin excisions in general practice”, the researchers wrote.

They acknowledged that the overall infection rate of 9.0% was higher than the suggested acceptable rate of less than 5%, noting that it may be due to “the hot, humid environment, or to patient behaviour in our rural setting”.

While not generalisable to more complicated surgery, such as skin flaps, the authors said the results could be extrapolated to other minor surgeries such as contraceptive implant insertion and minor procedures involving class 2 wounds such as suturing of lacerations.

Economically, the use of boxed gloves over sterile gloves could save practices $1.05 per pair. “The cost saving benefit of using non-sterile gloves – without increasing infection rates – may be of particular relevance to developing countries with limited health care resources”, the authors concluded.


Comparing non-sterile with sterile gloves for minor surgery. A prospective randomised controlled non-inferiority trial, Clare Heal FRACGP, PhD, Shampavi Sriharan MB BS(Hons), DCH, Petra G Buttner PhD, MSc, Deborah Kimber RN, BN, CDE, Medical Journal of Australia, doi: 10.5694/mja14.00314, published 19 January 2015.

Source: Australian Medical Association