A medical gown is a form of personal protective equipment (PPE) designed for use in medical and healthcare settings, such as surgical procedures, checkups, and other situations where there is contact between healthcare workers and patients. Medical gowns are effective at preventing the transfer of microorganisms and infectious agents to workers and vulnerable patients. There are several different types of medical gowns, with some capable of offering higher levels of protection.
Healthcare facilities need to keep an adequate supply of PPE to ensure high levels of sanitation and patient care are maintained at all times. This is a crucial element of an overall infection-control strategy. Hospitals, surgeries, and other medical practices must not only stock enough medical gowns for patients and staff, but they must also be sure it is appropriate for its intended purpose and offers the correct levels of protection.
Before selecting medical gowns for a healthcare facility, management should understand the primary routes of disease transmission, the different types of medical gowns, and the fluid resistance and levels of protection they provide.
Dangers of Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens
One of the most important factors in choosing the right type of gowns and surgical equipment is recognizing the dangers associated with infectious diseases and how to combat the risk of exposure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are two main routes of disease transmission. The medical gowns you choose should protect against each of these.
Direct and Indirect Contact
Direct contact transmission is where microorganisms transfer directly through physical contact between infected and vulnerable people. Indirect contact transmission occurs through contaminated surfaces, objects, or live hosts such as mosquitos, fleas, flies, rodents, or dogs.
Respiratory and Airborne Droplet Nuclei
Respiratory droplets transfer via airborne transmission. This can be bacteria spread through dust particles or respiratory droplets from sneezing, coughing, or breathing. Doctors and patients may absorb these particles when they come into contact with their eyes, nose, or mouth.
Using the right medical gown provides a protective barrier between the wearer and infectious bacteria, reducing the risk of exposure through contact or droplet exposure.
Medical Gown Protection Levels
Medical gowns are closely regulated, and each piece of clothing must meet industry standards for gowns. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes standards outlined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Association of the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). Details of these standards are explained in the 2012 publication, ANSI/AAMI PB70.
Gowns intended for medical use are graded by their liquid barrier performance and classification of protective apparel. This is essentially the effectiveness of the clothing against liquid penetration, for example, body fluids, airborne pathogens, or bloodborne bacteria.
Medical gowns are tested to ensure they meet the minimum standards and are allocated a protection level between one and four. Testing is obligatory to verify that the equipment is suitable for use in medical scenarios with varying degrees of risk.
Level 1 Gowns
These gowns are designed for medical scenarios of minimal risk, such as basic care or standard checkups. They should not be used for any type of invasive procedure, like drawing blood or surgery. Level 1 gowns are commonly used by hospital visitors as well as patients and medical workers.
Level 2 Gowns
Level 2 gowns are resistant to low amounts of fluid penetration. They are intended for use in low-risk medical scenarios, like suturing, drawing blood, and general use in an intensive care unit (ICU).
Level 3 Gowns
Level 3 gowns provide enough liquid barrier protection for medical procedures with a moderate risk of bacterial exposure. Emergency room doctors and nurses wear this type of gown for invasive procedures such as intravenous (IV) insertion and trauma cases. Level 3 gowns are resistant to splatter and soakage, protecting the wearer against direct, indirect, and airborne bacteria.
Level 4 Gowns
These protective gowns are designed and tested for use in high-risk medical procedures, where infectious disease and harmful pathogens are suspected. They offer the highest level of barrier protection of all gowns and are worn frequently for major surgery and fluid-intensive procedures.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, level 4 garments have been in high demand as the risk of disease transmission in healthcare settings is high. Level 4 gowns are proven to prevent fluid penetration for up to one hour.
Different Types of Medical Gowns
As specialized medical devices, hospital gowns are not standardized. They are made from different materials and provide varying levels of protection. The FDA recognizes three main gown designs. The type of medical gowns you choose should be based on patient and staff needs within the facility.
Surgical gowns are regarded as Class II medical devices and require a 510(k) premarket notification. This means that the manufacturer must give the FDA enough time before the product’s release to determine if it is safe and effective. All surgical gowns must be clearly labeled for fast and easy recognition.
Since they must be used for invasive procedures, surgical gowns offer adequate protection for minimal to high-risk medical scenarios. Surgical gowns have a critical zone of protection on the front of the gown, shielding the most vulnerable parts of the body during surgery, from the top of the shoulders to the knees and from the elbows to the wrist.
Isolation gowns are available in all four different protection levels. The unique characteristic of isolation gowns is their critical zone of protection. Apart from the hems, cuffs, and bindings, all gown parts are regarded as critical zones.
Some isolation gowns are approved for surgical procedures and are given a Class II medical device categorization, meaning they must also receive a premarket notification.
Non-surgical gowns are Class I medical devices, meaning they are exempt from premarket notification. These gowns shouldn’t be worn for invasive procedures like surgery. When choosing a non-surgical gown, the most important factor is that it covers enough of the body as the task requires.
Other Factors to Consider When Selecting Medical Gowns
When selecting medical gowns, the most important consideration is that they are appropriate for the purpose and offer the wearer adequate protection from potentially harmful pathogens. Ensure all PPE is FDA-approved and thoroughly tested.
Medical gowns must fit the wearer perfectly. Consider the size of employees when purchasing a fresh supply of PPE. If there is a shortage of fitted gowns, universal sizes should be purchased as a backup.
All staff must be trained how to use PPE effectively, particularly when donning and doffing medical gowns. During application and removal, medical personnel may be more vulnerable to disease transmission.
Find High-Quality, FDA-approved Medical Gowns at ICU Productions Inc.
Maintaining safe sanitation standards is crucial in any medical setting. Ensuring you have enough medical gowns of the right type, size, and liquid barrier protection level helps keep your staff, patients, and visitors safe from the transmission of disease and harmful bacteria.
At ICU Productions Inc., we provide FDA-approved gowns from levels 1 to 4. We also stock other quality PPE, including masks, face shields, gloves, and hand sanitizers, so you can find everything you need from one source. Visit our online store to browse our full range of PPE equipment.