With new and improved technological advancements in surgical gloves, surgeons have a wide variety of choice for wear in the operating theatre from natural rubber latex to synthetic options.
However, not all natural rubber latex surgical gloves are made equal. One glove increases the risk of adverse health effects to patients and healthcare workers, the other does not.
Weighing up the risks:
powdered gloves vs. powder-free gloves
Surgical powdered latex gloves pose a highly dangerous risk to both patients and healthcare workers. While there is no ban for powdered gloves in Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council strongly recommends the use of non-powdered gloves (‘ADA responds to FDA ban on powdered gloves’ 2017).
Cornstarch powder is aerosolised during donning and doffing, leading to respiratory exposure for up to 12 hours (Australian Dental Association 2015). This type of exposure can result in occupational asthma for staff in the long-term.
Cornstarch powder is an allergen carrier, and prolonged exposure increases the risk of staff developing latex-induced hypersensitivity (Edlich et al. 2009).
Cornstarch powder can significantly impact patient recovery, with the potential for granulomas, inflammation, peritoneal adhesions, and wound infections (Edlich et al. 2009, Baid et al. 2017).
Powder-free latex gloves reduce the development of respiratory and contact allergic reactions.
Powder-free latex gloves reduce the development of natural rubber latex-induced allergies (Henning et al. 2004), and protects staff and patients diagnosed with Type I Latex Allergy.
Powder-free gloves reduce post-operative complications in patients, and promote a safer working environment for staff.