Study Compares Long-Sleeved Coats to Sleeveless

May 25, 2011

Study Gives "Thumbs Up" to Long-sleeved White Coats

A study released in the April edition of Journal of Hospital Medicine has revealed that there are no statistically significant differences in the bacterial contamination of physician’s white coats as compared to short-sleeved uniforms, or the wrists of physicians wearing either type of garment.

The researchers objective was to compare the degree of bacterial and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) contamination of doctors’ white coats with that of short-sleeved uniforms after an 8 hour workday.

The study was a prospective, randomized controlled trial conducted at Denver Health, a university-affiliated public safety-net hospital. One hundred internal medicine residents and hospitalists participated in the study, wearing either the typical white coat or a newly laundered short-sleeved uniform. Cultures were taken to determine the bacterial colony count and the frequency of MRSA positive cultures.

The results of the study exhibited no statistically significant difference in bacterial contamination between the two types of garments. Nor were there differences in the contamination of the skin at the wrists of the study participants.

The authors concluded that bacterial contamination occurs within hours of wearing newly laundered short-sleeved uniforms. After 8 hours of wear, no difference in contamination was observed between the white coats or short-sleeved uniforms. The authors noted that the data did not support discarding long-sleeved white coats for short-sleeved uniforms.

Reference: Burden, M., Cervantes, L., Weed, D., Keniston, A., Price, C.S., and R.K. Albert. Newly Cleaned Physician Uniforms and Infrequently Washed White Coats Have Similar Rates of Bacterial Contamination After an 8-hour Workday: a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Hospital Medicine, 6(4):109-14 (2011).

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