Healthcare workers can hurt themselves accidentally with needles or sharp instruments that have been used in patient care. This carries a small risk that the healthcare worker becomes infected with a viral disease such as hepatitis or HIV. Therefore it is important to prevent blood contact to prevent infection. We evaluated whether the use of gloves, more than one layer of gloves or special gloves can prevent needles or sharp instruments from piercing the skin. Up until June 2013, we found 34 studies that evaluated 6890 operations. There were no studies in non-surgical staff.
Two pairs of gloves compared to one pair only
In 12 studies, two pairs of gloves reduced the number of perforations in gloves by 71% compared to the use of one pair of gloves. In three studies, two pairs of gloves reduced blood stains on the skin by 65%. The reduction in self reported needlestick injuries was less clear.
Three pairs of gloves compared to two pairs of ordinary gloves
One low-quality study showed that triple gloves compared to double gloves can further reduce perforations.
A pair of thicker or special gloves compared to a pair of ordinary gloves
Five low-quality studies showed that the number of perforations was similar for thicker and thinner gloves. In two low-quality studies, the use of one pair of fabric gloves over one pair of normal gloves reduced perforations compared to two pairs of normal gloves. This was similar for gloves made from special material such as fabric or steel, used in between normal gloves.
Indicator gloves show a coloured spot when they are pierced. Two studies showed that they reduced the number of perforations per glove but not the total amount of perforations.
Sensitivity of the fingers
There were no indications that using more layers of gloves decreased sensitivity of the fingers.
Surgeons and surgical staff can reduce their risk of contracting a serious viral infection by wearing two pairs of gloves instead of one pair of gloves. The use of three glove layers or gloves made from special material probably reduces the risk further but these need better evaluation. We need further studies to evaluate whether gloves have a similar preventive effect in other healthcare professionals outside the operating theatre.