Doctors can use clean, boxed gloves rather than the more expensive sterile gloves for minor surgical procedures without fear of increasing the risk of wound infections, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Researchers from James Cook University in far north Queensland randomly assigned patients needing minor surgery in a Mackay primary care clinic to either using clean boxed gloves, or the control group using sterile gloves.
Of the 478 patients providing data, 43 had developed a wound infection by the time they came to have stitches removed, an overall infection rate of 9.0%.
The infection rate in the clean, boxed gloves group of 8.7% was significantly non-inferior to that of the sterile gloves group (9.3%).
"In regard to wound infection, non-sterile clean boxed gloves are not inferior to sterile gloves for minor skin excisions in general practice", the researchers wrote.
They acknowledged that the overall infection rate of 9.0% was higher than the suggested acceptable rate of less than 5%, noting that it may be due to "the hot, humid environment, or to patient behaviour in our rural setting".
While not generalisable to more complicated surgery, such as skin flaps, the authors said the results could be extrapolated to other minor surgeries such as contraceptive implant insertion and minor procedures involving class 2 wounds such as suturing of lacerations.
Economically, the use of boxed gloves over sterile gloves could save practices $1.05 per pair. "The cost saving benefit of using non-sterile gloves - without increasing infection rates - may be of particular relevance to developing countries with limited health care resources", the authors concluded.