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Disposable vs. Reusable Gowns: Saving Time, Money, and Lives

Throughout the medical world, there has often been debate on whether or not disposable supplies are necessary in all circumstances. In some cases, it is obvious that disposable is the only way to go. You cannot reuse laparotomy sponges or surgical gloves. However, when it comes to surgical gowns and garments, some of the most essential pieces to maintaining aseptic conditions, some facilities and countries opt for reusable supplies. Even though reusable supplies might appear to save money, in the long run they can cost hospitals and patients time, money, and results.

Surgical gowns prevent the transmission of skin and blood particles between the staff and patients. This is a critical component of preventing surgical site infections, which are infections in the part of the body that just had surgery. Surgical site infections have many negative consequences for patients and hospitals. For patients, they can lead to lost time, increased expenses, and even death. For hospitals, these infections extend patient stays, hospital expenses, and keep beds occupied that would have been available for new patients. Not to mention, it is not good for a surgeon’s or a hospital’s reputation.

Even though reusable supply technology has improved over the years, recent studies and the industry still favor disposable supplies. They reliably provide results and prevent surgical site infections and transmission of bacteria. Reusable gowns need to be washed, sterilized, and stored, which can lead to a decrease in performance. Sometimes reusable gowns have a higher production quality and may be more comfortable, but this does not lead to better results.

Overall, disposable surgical gowns and garments continue to be the cost-effective and safe choice for hospitals and clinics. Reusable supplies have too many unknown costs associated with them, including the health and safety of patients. It is no coincidence that nearly all American hospitals use disposable surgical gowns and 53 of the world’s top 100 hospitals are found in the United States.