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July 17, 2017

Surgeons Should Operate Naked to Decrease Risk of Surgical Site Infections

Image courtesy of adamr
This controversial claim was actually made by a well-respected surgeon, Dr. Dellinger, at a well-respected institution, University of Washington Seattle, and published in a well-respected journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Although this research article's title is certainly published in jest, there is an underlying more serious message.

In any case, the argument goes like this:

    • FACT: Humans constantly shed skin flakes and germs from the skin. Wearing clothing like scrubs actively rub the skin aggravating the skin shedding with germs which can disseminate into the air.

    • FACT: Naked humans shed less skin and germs than clothed humans.

    • Therefore, naked surgeons would lead to a more sterile environment for operating on patients and decrease infection risk.

The study also found that male surgeons shed twice as much germs as women and that women wearing tights in the operating room shed more than those with bare legs.

In spite of the clear benefits from an infection standpoint, it is doubtful that surgical procedures will ever be performed with naked surgeons assisted by naked nurses and naked support staff.

And if hospital and government policies ever change in order to enforce naked surgery in the name of patient safety, I'm not sure the operating room culture would ever change to the point where snarky comments, inappropriate giggling, and staring would disappear to allow for the serious business of safe and competent surgery.

Naked Surgeons? The Debate About What to Wear in the O.R. Clin Infect Dis. 2017 May 29. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix498. [Epub ahead of print]
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. He is also the chief medical officer of O2Labz, a medical and scientific 3D animation company.Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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