JCU medical research says sterile gloves not essential for minor procedures

2 February 2015

New research from James Cook University has found that clean, boxed gloves are just as effective in reducing the risk of wound infections for minor procedures as sterile gloves.
As the clean, boxed gloves cost significantly less, the findings may help reduce costs for procedures in developing countries with limited health resources, without increasing infection rates.

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The research, led by JCU Medical School’s Dr Clare Heal, Associate Professor in General Practice and Rural Medicine, was published Jan. 19 in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Dr Heal said the research involved doctors using either clean, boxed gloves or the sterile gloves on a group of 478 randomly selected patients who required minor procedures in a Mackay primary care clinic.
“We were trying to establish or determine if the clean boxed gloves were just as effective as the sterile gloves at preventing wound infections,” Dr Heal said.
Of the 478 patients providing data, 43 had developed a wound infection by the time they came to have stitches removed, which translates to an overall infection rate of 9.0%.
While those treated with the clean, boxed gloves had an infection rate of 8.7%, the sterile gloves group recorded an infection rate of 9.3%.
“In regard to wound infection, non-sterile clean boxed gloves are just as good as sterile gloves for minor skin excisions in general practice,” Dr Heal said.
Dr Heal said 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 weather and patient occupations and hobbies in our rural setting.”
“These findings are not applicable to more complicated surgery, such as skin flaps, but the results can be applied to other minor surgeries, such as contraceptive implant insertion or suturing of lacerations, for example,”the JCU Medical School professor said.
The research may also help lower costs for procedures or medical practices, as clean, boxed gloves cost about $1.05 less per pair than sterile gloves.
“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 research was conducted from June 2012 to May 2013. The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.

About James Cook University Medical School

The JCU School of Medicine specializes in rural and remote medicine. The program has a unique place among Australian medical schools. The course is undertaken entirely in northern Australia and has an emphasis on tropical medicine, the health of rural and remote communities, and of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders. The medical program is informed by a concern for social justice, innovation and excellence in medical education, research and service.
Medical students gain early experience in the tropical health care context and benefit from extensive clinical experience and a full course of medical education and training. The program attracts students, staff and clinicians with an ambition to make a difference, whatever their background, specialty or career direction.
JCU Medical School offers a six-year, full-time undergraduate degree in medicine and surgery, the Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). This medical program aims to produce graduates of the highest academic standards, who can progress to medical practice and to further studies in medical specialties. As mentioned above, the course places special emphasis on rural and Indigenous health and tropical medicine. If you are interested in global health, and the health of people in rural and remote places, JCU Medical School may be a great fit for you!

JCU Medical School’s MBBS

Program: Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Next semester intake: February 2016
Duration: 6 years
Application deadline: TBC. For the 2015 intake, the application deadline was August 29, 2014.

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