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The benefits and harms of extra gloves for preventing needlestick injuries

April 09, 2014

It is well documented that healthcare workers are at risk of acquiring viral diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV through exposure to contaminated blood and body fluids at work. Most of this infection occurs when a healthcare worker inadvertently punctures the skin of their hand with a medical sharp, which has been infected by another person.

To determine whether extra gloves could be beneficial or harms of extra gloves for preventing percutaneous exposure incidents among healthcare workers a study was launched by a group of researchers.

The results were reached through randomised controlled trials (RCTs) with healthcare workers making up the majority of participants. Two authors independently assessed study eligibility and risk of bias, and extracted data, with meta-analyses being performed for seven different comparisons.

According to the study, there is a moderate level of evidence to suggest that double gloving decreases the risk of needlestick injuries, when compared to using one glove. However, there was little proof that wearing three gloves reduced the risk of glove perforations compared to double gloving with normal material gloves. 

There was moderate-quality evidence that the results were similar whether one special glove was used or two gloves of normal material. The study found that thicker gloves did not perform any better than thinner gloves.

Researchers found that, in two studies, there was moderate to low-quality evidence that an indicator system does not reduce the total number of perforations during an operation, despite evidence suggesting that it does result in less perforations per glove used.

However, the research suggested that double gloves have a similar number of outer glove perforations as single gloves, indicating that there is no loss of dexterity with double gloves.

The researchers said that the preventative effect of double gloves on percutaneous exposure incidents in surgery does not require further research. However, more studies would need to be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of special material gloves and triple gloves, and of gloves in other departments.

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