Swedish Researchers Investigate Protective Capacity of Surgical Attire

To prevent surgical site infection it is desirable to keep bacterial counts low in the operating room air during orthopedic surgery, especially prosthetic surgery. As the airborne bacteria are mainly derived from the skin flora of the personnel present in the operating room a reduction could be achieved by using a clothing system for staff made from a material fulfilling the requirements in the standard EN 13795. The aim of a study by Tammelin, et al. (2012) was to compare the protective capacity between three clothing systems made of different materials one mixed cotton/polyester and two polyesters - which all had passed the tests according to EN 13795.

Measuring of CFU/m3 air was performed during 21 orthopedic procedures performed in four operating rooms with turbulent, mixing ventilation with air flows of 755 1,050 L/s. All staff in the operating room wore clothes made from the same material during each surgical procedure.

The source strength (mean value of CFU emitted from one person per second) calculated for the three garments were 4.1, 2.4 and 0.6 respectively. In an operating room with an air flow of 755 L/s both clothing systems made of polyester reduced the amount of CFU/m3 significantly compared to the clothing system made from mixed material. In an operating room with air intake of 1,050 L/s a significant reduction was only achieved with the polyester that had the lowest source strength.

The researchers concluded that polyester has a better protective capacity than cotton/polyester. They say there is need for more discriminating tests of the protective efficacy of textile materials intended to use for operating garment. Their research was published in Patient Safety in Surgery.  

Reference: Tammelin A, Ljungqvist B and Reinmüller B. Comparison of three distinct surgical clothing systems for protection from air-borne bacteria: A prospective observational study. Patient Safety in Surgery 2012, 6:23 doi:10.1186/1754-9493-6-23