Which regions of the operating gown should be considered most sterile?

Jesse E. Bible, Debdut Biswas, Peter G. Whang, Andrew K. Simpson, Jonathan N. Grauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Various guidelines have been proposed regarding which portions of a surgical gown may be considered sterile. Unfortunately, the validity of these recommendations has not been definitively established. We therefore evaluated gown sterility after major spinal surgery to assess the legitimacy of these guidelines. We used sterile culture swabs to obtain samples of gown fronts at 6-inch increments and at the elbow creases of 50 gowns at the end of 29 spinal operations. Another 50 gowns were swabbed immediately after they were applied to serve as negative controls. Bacterial growth was assessed using semiquantitative plating techniques on a nonselective, broad-spectrum media. Contamination was observed at all locations of the gown with rates ranging from 6% to 48%. Compared with the negative controls, the contamination rates were greater at levels 24 inches or less and 48 inches or more relative to the ground and at the elbow creases. The section between the chest and operative field had the lowest contamination rates. Based on these results, we consider the region between the chest and operative field to be the most sterile and any contact with the gown outside this area, including the elbow creases, should be avoided to reduce the risk of infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-830
Number of pages6
JournalClinical orthopaedics and related research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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