One of the most important considerations when choosing surgical apparel for the operating room is ensuring the surgical team has the correct level of protection appropriate to the procedure. An assessment of risk for fluid exposure, the anticipated length of time for the procedure and being informed on the standards which govern barrier protection all play a role in determining the appropriate level of protection. The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI TIR11:2005) makes recommendations for the selection and use of protective apparel based upon anticipated exposure risks. Members of the surgical team should have no doubt in knowing they are protected from bloodborne pathogens or other micro-organisms. Protective surgical apparel should present a visible identifier indicating the level of protection the product provides eliminating any guesswork by the user.
Once the required level of protection has been established, attention to the comfort factor should be considered. A breathable surgical gown helps the wearer’s core body temperature remain within the normal range. Apparel worn during prolonged procedures can typically elevate the core body temperature causing risk for heat exhaustion, excessive strain, or possibly the requirement for cooling vests if it is not breathable. Also impacting comfort is the fit of the garment. Protective surgical apparel which is available in a wide range of sizes to adequately accommodate the needs of the surgical team should be a consideration.
The final factor when selecting operating room apparel is the environmental impact giving thought for what happens to the product following the procedure. Is it destined for landfill or incineration or can it be reprocessed and reused? The environmental component involved in choosing products, not only plays to social responsibility but also plays significantly to cost. Reusable surgical apparel verses disposable surgical apparel should be a consideration when making product selections.