A study on surgical gowns

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Surgical gowns used by medical personnel are essential protective equipment for securing health from various pathogens such as bacteria, viruses.  While the pores of garments are less than the size of the microbes, microorganisms cannot pass through it. For producing garments, manufacturers may concern about the specification of the products, comfort of the products, and cost of the products. It is difficult to assure all of these criteria together, however, manufacturers always try to develop their methods concerning global response.

Figure 1: Different types of surgical gown

Classifications of fabrics

According to fabrics types, it can be classified into three types:

  1. Cotton/cotton-polyester: These are traditional also contain pore sizes large enough to pass that of the microorganisms providing low barrier effects. For providing better barrier effects, tightly woven fabrics blended with polyester and long-staple cotton as well as liquid repellent fluorocarbon treatment are also used. These kinds of fabrics may be reusable but reapplied regularly for enhancing the barrier effects as it reduces every wash.
  2. Microfilament fabrics: These are also tightly woven fabrics like Cotton/cotton-polyester, it is made from very fine filaments. The hydrophobic agent’s treatment is also applied to each reprocessing process.
  3. Multilayer fabrics: Multiple layers use for achieving desired objectives. For example, outer layers are designed to resist abrasion and puncture, middle layers ensuring resistance of fluid penetration and bottom layer providing the comfort of users.
Figure 2: Shows the function of the different layers in multi-layer fabric. Photo: Rojakpot

According to usage purposes, it can be divided into two ways:

Disposable surgical gowns: These types of surgical gowns used for one time purposes made from non-woven techniques. In the USA, disposable surgical gowns and drapes dominate the market place around 90%. For this single used product, manufacturers sterilize it and also provide pre-sterile to the users. It is more comfortable for the user and the barrier quality is good. But as it is used in a single time, it increases environmental issues and the cost of the products.

Reusable surgical gowns: Reusable gowns made from woven fabrics are used multiple times. It ensures the lower clinical wastage and benefits of costs but it is difficult to maintain a good barrier life on account of continuous recycling process which keeps the bad safety issues.

Factors considering for production process

There are various parameters involved in surgical gowns production such as raw materials, methods of sterilization, building parameters.

  1. Raw materials: Many types of fiber can be used as raw material but polyester dominates most of the parts because of its availability, comfort, barrier, and costs.
  2. Building parameters: Besides non-woven fabrics, plain and twill structure can be used as surgical gowns. Now a day, researchers suggest using plain weave instead of twill weave as twill weave contains large pores between cross points.
  3. Methods of sterilization: Sterilization methods apply to the fabrics more precisely used in surgical textiles for avoiding damage to the products and preventing infections. Four types of methods exist worldwide, they are gas, irradiation, steam autoclave, and dry heat.

The first two types are low-temperature methods using for disposable types of surgical gowns and the last two types are related to high-temperature methods using for reusable surgical gowns.

Steam autoclaves are widely used on account of effective, safe, and inexpensive but it is not suitable for heat and moisture sensitive items. Ethylene oxide (Eto) is more suitable for this methods but it produces toxic and long cycles. Thus we consider two common methods alternative to that methods are the Steris System and the Sterrad system.

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