Medical Equipment Blog

Sterile Gloves Q & A

Friday, April 08, 2011

What are the materials most commonly used in making sterile gloves for surgical procedures?
There are a variety of different materials used in making sterile gloves. The oldest and still a very popular option is latex, which is commonly used for heavy duty, high risk types of procedures that require highly tear and puncture resistant gloves. Newer options for sterile gloves include nitrile and neoprene exam gloves. Both of these are good options for all types of medical use since they have a very low risk of allergic reaction, which is a common problem with the latex gloves, even the powder-free options. It is important to keep in mind that any gloves could potentially cause rashes, allergic reactions and irritation for individuals with sensitive skin.

Materials used in making sterile gloves need to be non-porous and resistant to tears and punctures as well as have a good level of elasticity to allow the glove to conform to the hand. They also need to be lightweight and comfortable for short to long duration wear. The additional feature of surgical or examination gloves, especially those used in medical procedures, is a good fit and high level of tactile sensitivity for the wearer. While most sterile gloves are not readily biodegradable some of the old products, particularly latex, are better at being more completely destroyed after use, without any of the problems associated with the new polymer materials.

What is the most common mistake made in putting on sterile gloves?

Using the sterile glove technique takes a lot of practice but it does ensure that the exterior of the glove remains contaminant free and sterile. One common mistake is incorrectly using the gloved hand to assist in putting the glove on the other hand, which is typically the non-dominant hand. The gloved hand may slip out from under the cuff of the glove or the individual may pull incorrectly upward on the cuff allowing the gloved hand to make contact with non-sterile surfaces. In addition placing the exterior wrapper of the sterile glove packaging on the sterile field is another common error prior to putting the gloves on.

Are there sterile gloves for examination procedures that are not acceptable for surgical work?

Different types of sterile gloves are approved for either examination only or surgical and examination purposes. Sterile gloves made of latex, neoprene and a material known as polyisoprene can be used for both examination and surgical work. Polyisoprene is not commonly used in surgical procedures since it is relatively permeable with regards to providing barrier protection for the skin plus it is not as puncture resistant as the other options available. There are some nitrile gloves that are approved for surgical procedures but not all so careful examination of the information provided on the packaging is important. 

Vinyl and some nitrile gloves are approved for examination purposes only. Vinyl gloves are simply too lightweight and easily punctured, plus with very limited elasticity these gloves are not ideal in any type of sterile environment.

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