Naked surgeons shed significantly less bacteria than those wearing scrubs, according to research.
And in another challenge to conventional practice, scientists have discovered there is little difference between surgeons operating in their normal clothes rather than in surgical gowns.
These claims were made based on existing research rather than putting the theory to the test. The University of Washington researchers also observed that male surgeons shed twice as many germs as women. However, women wearing tights in the operating room were a greater health risk than those with bare legs.
According to lead commentator Dr Patchen Dellinger: “In terms of shedding bacteria into the air, naked people shed less bacteria than people in clothes.
‘The way bacteria gets into the air is through our little skin flakes called squames. If you are wearing clothing it rubs on the squames and sends them out into the air. But if you are naked, that doesn’t happen.”
He claimed the reason why ordinary clothes were no worse than scrubs in spreading infection was because everyday garments tend to be more tightly woven.
“The normal clothes we wear around town also have smaller cuffs on the trousers and shirts than we have on our scrub suits,” he said. “However, I’m not going to wear my jacket and tie in the OR because I don’t want it to get messed up. I’m going to wear my scrub suit to protect my clothing – not to protect the patient.”
But he remains unhopeful that his clothing theories will be tested. “Naked surgery probably won’t happen – and I don’t think it will be studied,” he said.