The operating theater in a major hospital is an environment where a physician’s ability to focus and concentrate can be the difference between life and death. The Hohenstein Institute, Bönnigheim, Germany, wanted to assess the effect of protective clothing systems on surgeons’ performance and mental abilities by testing disposable and reusable clothing in a realistic simulation of surgical work. Volunteers wearing different clothing took a computer-based occupational psychology test that enabled researchers to measure the ability of the subject to concentrate.
The primary function of surgical clothing and drapes is hygienic, providing an effective barrier against blood, body fluids and bacteria for both the patient and doctor. Disposable clothing is destroyed after a single use, offering safety but increasing waste disposal and replacement costs. Reusable clothing, sterilized after each use, costs more on initial investment and for cleaning. Comfort is essential for surgical staff working many hours doing delicate work in high-stress situations. Hohenstein found that volunteers wearing reusable clothing had quicker reaction times to visual and auditory stimuli and had a lower error rate in task performance. The testing can help textile manufacturers provide scientific criteria for purchasers of hospital clothing systems.