Widely Used Hospital Gowns Show Signs of Exposing Workers to Infection

by | Jul 6, 2022 | Health

Disposable gowns designed to deflect the splatter of bodily fluids, used in thousands of U.S. hospitals, have underperformed in recent and ongoing laboratory tests and may fall short of safety standards, leaving health care workers with a greater risk of infection than advertised.

A peer-reviewed academic study, published to little notice amid the coronavirus pandemic, found that isolation gowns commonly worn in medical units or intensive care units ripped too easily and allowed about four to 14 times the expected amount of liquid to seep through when sprayed or splashed.

“I’m amazed that facilities are using them,” said study co-author Elizabeth Easter, a textile expert at the University of Kentucky, of the thinnest disposable gowns. “Because, technically, you can see through the fabric.”

Now a similar study is underway at ECRI, a nonprofit focused on health care safety, which began testing disposable isolation gowns after receiving anecdotal reports of “blood or other body fluids leaking through,” said ECRI Engineering Director Chris Lavanchy. He told KHN that preliminary test results raised concerns that disposable gowns may not meet safety standards.

Isolation gowns are worn by hospital workers to cover their torso and arms before entering rooms of contagious patients, blocking the spray of fluids that could otherwise cling to workers’ clothing and end up in their eyes or mouth. Germs are thought to rarely seep through g …

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