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Am Fam Physician. 2004;70(2):376

Clinical Question: Do sterile gloves offer greater protection from wound infection than clean nonsterile gloves?

Setting: Emergency department

Study Design: Randomized controlled trial (single-blinded)

Synopsis: The investigators enrolled 816 patients (81 percent of eligible patients) presenting to the emergency departments of three hospitals with clean, nonbite lacerations deemed not to require antibiotic therapy. Patients were randomized to receive treatment by physicians who wore either sterilized latex-free gloves or standard, boxed, nonsterilized latex-free gloves to perform the repair.

Allocation to group assignment did not seem to be concealed from the enrolling physician. Patients were not aware of the type of gloves used. The treating physicians knew which type of gloves they were wearing; it is possible that they were more scrupulous with cleaning if they were using the nonsterile gloves. Follow-up was performed by a physician unaware of treatment assignment, and only 2 percent of patients were lost to follow-up.

Infection occurred in 6.1 percent of the patients treated with sterile gloves and 4.4 percent of patients treated with nonsterile gloves—a nonsignificant difference. The study had the ability to find a 50 percent difference in infection rate, if one existed.

Bottom Line: Infection rates in patients undergoing uncomplicated laceration repair are similar when sterile gloves, rather than nonsterile clean gloves, are worn. (Level of Evidence: 1b)

POEMs (patient-oriented evidence that matters) are provided by Essential Evidence Plus, a point-of-care clinical decision support system published by Wiley-Blackwell. For more information, see http://www.essentialevidenceplus.com. Copyright Wiley-Blackwell. Used with permission.

For definitions of levels of evidence used in POEMs, see http://www.essentialevidenceplus.com/product/ebm_loe.cfm?show=oxford.

To subscribe to a free podcast of these and other POEMs that appear in AFP, search in iTunes for “POEM of the Week” or go to http://goo.gl/3niWXb.

This series is coordinated by Sumi Sexton, MD, editor-in-chief.

A collection of POEMs published in AFP is available at https://www.aafp.org/afp/poems.

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Copyright © 2004 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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