Sterile versus nonsterile gloves for repair of uncomplicated lacerations in the emergency department: a randomized controlled trial

Ann Emerg Med. 2004 Mar;43(3):362-70. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2003.09.008.


Study objective: Although sterile technique for laceration management continues to be recommended, studies supporting this practice are lacking. Using clean nonsterile gloves rather than individually packaged sterile gloves for uncomplicated wound repair in the emergency department may result in cost and time savings. This study is designed to determine whether the rate of infection after repair of uncomplicated lacerations in immunocompetent patients is comparable using clean nonsterile gloves versus sterile gloves.

Methods: A prospective multicenter trial enrolled 816 individuals who were randomized to have their wounds repaired by using sterile or clean nonsterile gloves. The attending physician or resident completed a checklist describing patient, wound, and management characteristics. The patients were provided with a questionnaire to be completed by the physician who removed their sutures at the prescribed time and indicated the presence or absence of infection. When follow-up forms were not returned, a telephone call was made to the patient to determine whether he or she had experienced any wound complications.

Results: Follow-up was obtained for 98% of the sterile gloves group and 96.6% of the clean gloves group. There was no statistically significant difference in the incidence of infection between the 2 groups. The infection rate in the sterile gloves group was 6.1% (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.8% to 8.4%) and was 4.4% in the clean gloves group (95% CI 2.4% to 6.4%). The relative risk of infection was 1.37 (95% CI 0.75 to 2.52).

Conclusion: This study demonstrated that there is no clinically important difference in infection rates between using clean nonsterile gloves and sterile gloves during the repair of uncomplicated traumatic lacerations.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gloves, Surgical*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lacerations / surgery*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sterilization
  • Sutures
  • Wound Infection / drug therapy
  • Wound Infection / epidemiology
  • Wound Infection / prevention & control*