Gowns are examples of personal protective equipment used in health care settings. They are used to protect the wearer from the spread of infection or illness if the wearer comes in contact with potentially infectious liquid and solid material. They may also be used to help prevent the gown wearer from transferring microorganisms that could harm vulnerable patients, such as those with weakened immune systems. Gowns are one part of an overall infection-control strategy.
A few of the many terms that have been used to refer to gowns intended for use in health care settings include surgical gowns, isolation gowns, surgical isolation gowns, nonsurgical gowns, procedural gowns, and operating room gowns.
In 2004, the FDA recognized the consensus standard American National Standards Institute/Association of the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (ANSI/AAMI) PB70:2003, “Liquid barrier performance and classification of protective apparel and drapes intended for use in health care facilities.” New terminology in the standard describes the barrier protection levels of gowns and other protective apparel intended for use in health care facilities and specifies test methods and performance results necessary to verify and validate that the gown provides the newly defined levels of protection:
- Level 1: Minimal risk, to be used, for example, during basic care, standard isolation, a cover gown for visitors, or in a standard medical unit
- Level 2: Low risk, to be used, for example, during a blood draw, suturing, in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), or a pathology lab
- Level 3: Moderate risk, to be used, for example, during an arterial blood draw, inserting an intravenous (IV) line, in the Emergency Room, or for trauma cases
- Level 4: High risk, to be used, for example, during long, fluid intense procedures, surgery, when pathogen resistance is needed or infectious diseases are suspected (non-airborne)
Regardless of how the product is named (that is, isolation gown, procedure gown, or cover gown), when choosing gowns, look for product labeling that describes an intended use with the desired level of protection based on the above risk levels. Product names are not standardized.