Comparing non-sterile to sterile gloves for minor surgery: a prospective randomised controlled non-inferiority trial

Med J Aust. 2015 Jan 19;202(1):27-31. doi: 10.5694/mja14.00314.


Objective: To compare the incidence of infection after minor surgery conducted using non-sterile clean boxed gloves with surgery conducted using sterile gloves.

Design: Prospective randomised controlled single-centre trial testing for non-inferiority in infection rates.

Setting: Primary care regional centre, Queensland, Australia.

Participants: Consecutive patients presenting to participating general practitioners for a minor skin excision, between 30 June 2012 and 28 March 2013, were eligible to participate.

Intervention: The use of non-sterile clean boxed gloves was compared with normal treatment using sterile gloves in the control group.

Main outcome measures: Wound infection, assessed at the time of removal of sutures, and other adverse events.

Results: Four hundred and ninety-three consecutive patients presenting for minor skin excisions were randomly allocated to the two treatment groups: non-sterile clean boxed gloves (n = 250) or sterile gloves (n = 243). Four hundred and seventy-eight patients contributed data for analysis (241 non-sterile, 237 sterile gloves). The incidence of infection in the non-sterile gloves group (8.7%; 95% CI, 4.9%-12.6%) was significantly non-inferior compared with the incidence in the control group (9.3%; 95% CI, 7.4%-11.1%). The two-sided 95% CI for the difference in infection rate (- 0.6%) was - 4.0% to 2.9%, and did not reach the predetermined margin of 7% which had been assumed as the non-inferiority limit. RESULTS of the intention-to-treat analysis were confirmed by per-protocol and sensitivity analyses. There were no important adverse effects.

Conclusion: Our study suggests that in regard to wound infection, non-sterile clean boxed gloves are not inferior to sterile gloves for minor skin excisions in general practice.

Trial registration: ACTRN12612000698875.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cost Savings
  • Gloves, Surgical / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Minor Surgical Procedures / instrumentation*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sterilization* / economics
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12612000698875