Hospital Infection Risks Not Helped by Sterile Gowns, Gloves: Study

The findings of new research suggest that use of sterile gowns and gloves for every intensive care unit (ICU) patient has little effect on preventing hospital-acquired infections.  

For years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health experts have told doctors to put on sterile gloves and gowns to help reduce the risk of spreading infection-causing bacteria among patients.

In a study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, University of Maryland researchers tested the effectiveness of this strategy and indicate that they found little impact on infections rates in intensive care units (ICU) from use of sterile hospital gowns and gloves.

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Researchers conducted a cluster-randomized trial in 20 medical and surgical ICUs at 20 hospitals across the United States from January 4, 2012, to October 4, 2012. Staff in 10 hospitals were told to put on a gown and gloves every time they attended a patient in ICU, while staff at the other hospitals followed existing procedures, which generally meant suiting up only at times when they were seeing a patient known to be infected. The researchers then looked at the rates of infection for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE).

The study concludes that there is no statistically significant differences between infection rates where hospitals used gloves and gowns with every ICU patient or just those known to be suffering from an infection. However, universal glove and gown use did appear to decrease the number of times health care workers entered and exited a patient’s room, and increased hand hygiene, but “had no statistically significant effect on rates of adverse events,”” the researchers concluded.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about 126,000 hospital infections involving MRSA occur each year, resulting in about 5,000 deaths. However, some researchers suggest that the number of deaths from MRSA in the U.S. is closer to 20,000 annually. MRSA infections, which are resistant to treatment by penicillin-based antibiotics, have accounted for more than 60 percent of hospital staph infections in recent years.

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of hospital infection lawsuits filed throughout the United States, as experts believe that most of these potentially life-threatening infections that develop in hospitals and medical centers can be prevented if steps are taken by the facility and staff.

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