Medical Protective Gowns: Key Features and Guidance for Selection

August 18, 2021 | Evaluations & Guidance


Not all medical protective gowns are alike: Different gowns offer different levels of protection. However, product shortages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed confusion among providers over gown types and uses.

Gown selection depends on several factors, including fluid barrier performance, coverage, user comfort, durability, and reusability. These factors differ between two major types of gowns: isolation gowns (sometimes referred to as surgical isolation gowns) and surgical gowns. Isolation gowns provide full, 360° coverage and protection at their claimed Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) barrier protection level, while surgical gowns are only required to provide the claimed protection level in the critical portions of the gown, such as the chest and forearms.

Facilities need to understand the standards surrounding gown classification, the different types of available gowns, and where they may be used. They should match gown selection with each procedure's expected exposure risk and take care to validate the gown's properties prior to use. They should be especially wary of gowns from nontraditional suppliers (e.g., new or non-U.S. manufacturers): ECRI has conducted testing of disposable isolation gowns from such suppliers that showed that roughly half of the gowns failed to meet AAMI's fluid barrier requirements.

  1. The primary purpose of medical protective gowns (including isolation, surgical, and cover gowns) is to limit cross-contamination between healthcare workers (HCWs) and patients by providing a barrier to foreign matter and fluid strikethrough.

  2. Medical gowns may be worn by HCWs, nonclinical personnel, and/or visitors. The type of gown selected should depend on a number of factors, including the clinical role, patient diagnosis, required isolation level per hospital protocol, and type of treatment. For example, gowns intended for surgical purposes are different from those intended for nonsurgical purposes.

  3. Gowns are typically classified based on their ability to protect the wearer from liquid penetration. Depending on the gown material and design, some gowns...

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