The use of examination gloves is part of the standard precautions to prevent medical staff from transmission of infectious agents between patients. Gloves also protect the staff from infectious agents originating from patients. Adequate protection, however, depends on intact gloves. The risk of perforation of examination gloves is thought to correlate with duration of wearing, yet only a few prospective studies have been performed on this issue. Hübner, et al. (2013) collected a total of 1,500 consecutively used pairs of examination gloves of two different brands and materials (latex and nitrile) over a period of two months on two ICUs. Used gloves were examined for micro-perforations using the "waterproof test" according to EN 455-1. Cox-regression for both glove types was used to estimate optimal changing intervals.
Only 26 percent of gloves were worn longer than 15 minutes. The total perforation rate was 10.3 percent with significant differences and deterioration of integrity of gloves between brands (p<0.001). Apart from the brand, change of wound dressing (p = 0.049) and washing patients (p = 0.001) were also significantly associated with an increased risk of perforation.
The researchers concluded that medical gloves show marked differences in their durability that cannot be predicted based on the technical data routinely provided by the manufacturer. They add that based on the increase of micro-perforations over time and the wearing behavior, recommendations for maximum wearing time of gloves should be given. Hübner, et al. (2013) say that changing of gloves after 15 minutes could be a good compromise between feasibility and safety, and that healthcare workers should be aware of the benefits and limitations of medical gloves. To improve personal hygiene hand disinfection should be further encouraged. Their research was published in BMC Infectious Diseases.
Reference: Hübner NO, Goerdt AM, Mannerow A, Pohrt U, Heidecke CD, Kramer A and Partecke LI. The durability of examination gloves used on intensive care units. BMC Infectious Diseases 2013, 13:226 doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-226