No doc wants to operate in a hot, heavy gown, but barrier protection trumps comfort and breathability every time. So long as there's no strikethrough, there's no problem.
"The biggest thing we need in a surgical gown can be summarized in one word: impermeable. That's it," says David Renton, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of surgery at Ohio State University's Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery in Columbus. "Some people may say they want it to breathe so it won't be as hot. Or to be soft so it's movable and feels good against the skin. But in the end, the most important thing is impermeability. We don't want exposure to the patient and vice versa in the OR."
The Buffalo Surgery Center in Amherst, N.Y., goes through about 25,000 gowns a year. The 3 things that matter most to the person with the purchasing power: good price, an ample cuff to grip gloves and strong permeability to prevent strikethrough.
"My surgeons would complain if I bought a gown that's not impermeable to strikethrough," says administrator Jeannette M. Moretti, RN, CNOR. "Otherwise, they just use what I give them."
Ms. Moretti recently switched gown vendors to take advantage of better pricing ($1.44 apiece). She stocks only 2 sizes "large and extra large fit everybody" and prefers a longer cuff that stays snug on the wrist and secures the gloves in place. "A shorter cuff can pull up and expose the wrist," she says, calling that gap a perfect opportunity for blood and bodily fluids to contact a surgeon's skin.