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When it comes to surgical attire, paper gowns allow significantly less bacterial contamination than cloth gowns, according to research published in Annals of Surgery.

Researchers performed a glove and gown study, in which surgical team members wearing either paper or cloth gowns were randomly assigned to change gloves or not change gloves one hour into an orthopedic procedure.

Cloth gowns had four times the baseline bacterial contamination of paper gowns (31 percent versus 7 percent) on the sleeves of the garments at the beginning of the procedure. After a lab analysis, researchers determined 96 percent of cloth gowns allowed bacteria to transmit through the cloth while 0 percent of the paper gowns allowed bacterial transmission through the paper.

In addition, surgeons with fresh outer gloves had a glove contamination rate of 13 percent, rather than the 23 percent contamination rate for surgeons retaining their original outer gloves throughout the entire procedure.

Researchers recommended the use of disposable paper gowns for all surgeries and the exchange of outer gloves before handling implants to reduce contamination and the risk of surgical site infections.