Wearing long sleeves while prepping a patient in the operating room decreases airborne contaminants

Published:November 30, 2017DOI:


      • Data used to support many practices in the operating room environment are supported by anecdotal data.
      • Certain regulatory agencies have suggested that nonscrubbed operating room personnel wear long sleeves while in the room.
      • Wearing long sleeves and gloves while prepping a mock patient led to decreased large-particle and microbial shedding compared with prepping with bare arms.
      • Wearing of long sleeves and gloves should be considered when applying the skin prep to patients before surgery.


      The use of long sleeves by nonscrubbed personnel in the operating room has been called into question. We hypothesized that wearing long sleeves and gloves, compared with having bare arms without gloves, while applying the skin preparation solution would decrease particulate and microbial contamination.


      A mock patient skin prep was performed in 3 different operating rooms. A long-sleeved gown and gloves, or bare arms, were used to perform the procedure. Particle counters were used to assess airborne particulate contamination, and active and passive microbial assessment was achieved through air samplers and settle plate analysis. Data were compared with Student's t-test or Mann-Whitney U, and P < .05 was considered to be significant.


      Operating room B demonstrated decreased 5.0- µm particle sizes with the use of sleeves, while operating rooms A and C showed decreased total microbes only with the use of sleeves. Despite there being no difference in the average number of total microbes for all operating rooms assessed, the use of sleeves specifically appeared to decrease the shed of Micrococcus.


      The use of long sleeves and gloves while applying the skin preparation solution decreased particulate and microbial shedding in several of the operating rooms tested. Although long sleeves may not be necessary for all operating room personnel, they may decrease airborne contamination while the skin prep is applied, which may lead to decreased surgical site infections.

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