Gowns and drapes are used widely in healthcare facilities. Gowns have been used to minimize the risk of disease acquisition by healthcare providers, to reduce the risk of patient-to-patient transmission, and during invasive procedures to aid in maintaining a sterile field. Drapes have been used during invasive procedures to maintain the sterility of environmental surfaces, equipment, and patients. This article reviews the use of gowns and drapes in healthcare facilities, including the characteristics, costs, benefits, and barrier effectiveness of single-use and reusable products.
Currently, gowns protect healthcare personnel performing invasive procedures from contact with bloodborne pathogens. Although gowns have been recommended to prevent patient-to-patient transmission in certain settings (eg, neonatal intensive care unit) and for certain patients (eg, those infected with vancomycin-resistant enterococci), scientific studies have produced mixed results of their efficacy. While appropriate use of drapes during invasive procedures is recommended widely as an aid in minimizing contamination of the operative field, the efficacy of this practice in reducing surgical-site infections has not been assessed by scientific studies.
Based on an evaluation of the functional requirements, environmental impact, and economics of gowns and drapes, clear superiority of either reusable or single-use gowns and drapes cannot be demonstrated. The selection of particular gowns and drapes by individual healthcare facilities requires an assessment of the facility's requirements, available products, and costs and should be based on the desired characteristics of an ideal gown or drape as defined in this paper.