In January of 2017, the FDA banned powdered surgical gloves. The only gloves that can be used in surgery are now powder free. This represents a big win for surgical health. Many hospitals and brand name glove manufacturers were already manufacturing powder free surgical gloves. Some, however, don’t know the reason behind the big shift. The FDA rarely moves quickly, and there were studies coming out in the late 1990s that provided some scientific basis for the switch. In short, cutting the powder out of surgical gloves trims latex allergies and reduces surgical site infections (SSIs)–and the switch is easy to make.
Latex Allergies on the Rise
The rising number of latex allergies has been a cause for concern for quite a while. More and more doctors and nurses were suffering from latex allergies caused by repeated exposure. The allergy was also becoming more common in patients. Powdered gloves are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than powder free surgical gloves. The latex bonds to the powder, and then becomes airborne. This allows for ingestion and inhalation, and in turn a more serious allergic reaction. Powder free gloves don’t carry the same risk, as there’s nothing to disperse through the air.
Surgical site infections are common, and they’re one of the chief reasons behind slow wound closure. Even a minor infection can extend the recovery period for surgery! Powder from latex gloves can irritate the skin and the sensitive layers beneath. Though latex powder is not often the direct cause of an infection, it leaves the body vulnerable to bacteria and disease. Cutting out powder on surgical gloves cuts out quite a few SSIs.
Easily Controlled Risks
The FDA finally moved to ban powdered surgical gloves because the risks are easily controlled. There are other gloves that offer comfort and mobility to surgeons and the nurses who work with them in the operating theater. Ansell, a popular supplier of surgical gloves of both types before the ban, now has a line up of purely sterile, powder free, ready to use surgical gloves. Though surgeons might miss their preferred feel, that will quickly wear off.
All surgical gloves are powder free today. It was a choice that centered patient health, but also the health of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. With the advent of powder free surgical gloves, airborne latex powder has been drastically reduced. SSI rates will be lowered, and it was all as easy as switching glove styles.