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Should theatre staff wear surgical face masks?

  • Comments (21)

Should theatre staff wear surgical face masks? What do you think?

A Cochrane review published in 2011 looked at three trials, involving a total of 2113 participants.

No statistically significant difference in infection rates between the masked and unmasked group was identified.

The authors of the review suggest more research is needed.

 

  • Comments (21)

Readers' comments (21)

  • Anonymous

    Please can you just clarify if the studies were looking at infection rates in the staff members or the patients undergoing the surgery? (no time to look at the Cochrane review at the moment I'm afraid).

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  • Anonymous

    Having worked in theatres for many years, I believe that when scrubbed you should wear a mask. Safer for patient and scrubbed personnel.
    It would be a matter of preference and infection control requirements for other staff in theatre.
    By the way I have absolutely no scientific evidence to back this opinion up!!

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  • Anonymous

    interesting question. is it a tradition or are they really effective?

    I know for years on the wards we wore the cheap and thin disposable masks for dressings and barrier and reverse barrier nursing until more recently it was discovered they were only effective for about three minute so we eventually changed to the more costly surgical masks with filters and it was up to our discretion when we used these in favour of the cheaper simple ones.

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  • Ellen Watters

    I worked in trauma theatre for many years and whilst wearing masks if you are flooring may be over the top I think when you're scrubbed it helps protect you from 'splatters'. I remember my mask being splattered with tiny droplets (blood, pus etc) even when I wasn't particularly aware of it.

    So for high risk surgery where drills and power tools are being used I think its important for staff in direct contact to continue to wear masks. Otherwise, as the Cochrane review stated, more research is needed to determine the risk for both HCP and patient.

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  • If they are robbing a bank, ( which many more nurses are doing in their spare time) I'd say yes. Making love? Difficult, unless it was all part of a game (or trap!!!). Masquerade Ball? Ideal! Local Am-Dram production of 'The Phantom of the Opera'? If the budget allows.Otherwise the paper ones aren't worth the paper they are made of, may as well use paper towels with an elastic band, or even better conti-pads.

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  • Anonymous

    redpaddys12 - thanks for making me laugh with your reply, I like the idea of the conti-pad.

    Seriously though is there any point in a lot of theatre rituals:

    - caps for staff who are bald or have extremely short hair
    - shared clogs which are going to be filthy and the wrong size
    - paper pants for patients which are stored in a sluice and where no diathermy will take place

    I'm all for full face protection if there is any risk, however small, of splatters of bodily fluid and staff should be protected as much as possible. I think it is awful that we are not allowed to wear protective goggles and masks on the wards when dealing with 'explosive' d&v.

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  • Anonymous | 6-Apr-2012 8:45 am

    looks like a complete overhaul is needed to determine what is ritual and tradition and what is essential. there may be some significant cost savings to be made there as well as on the wards in the rest of the healthcare establishments. the money could then be invested where it is really needed.

    streamlining may be a positive move in the right direction. Last time I visited an NHS hospital ward and the nurses' office I was shocked by all the clutter which surely does not enhance efficiency, cleanliness, hygiene and costs as much may not be essential to patient care or even for the benefits of the staff.

    Maybe a spring cleaning blast could start right at the very top with the chief's office sparing no junk, material or superfluous or unfit for purpose human!

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  • Anonymous

    anon 09.05

    Yes, you are absolutely right, I have never see so much out-of-date and unused stuff. We keep boxes and boxes of stuff hardly ever used,find drugs that are out of date, boxes of CDs for patients that have long gone, IV fluids we are never going to need, ready-to-hand 'procedure' boxes containing items no longer even used for that procedure, TTA envelopes that are too small to put the TTA letter in, wound dressings no longer recommended for us - the list is endless. What's the point in keeping boxes of 'forms' when a new version of the form is produced, that is if the new version was really needed in the first place.

    Don't even get me started on cleaning wipes - what's the point of having boxes of 'detergent wipes' which IC tell us are of no use whatsoever, if that's the case why have them at all.

    The ridiculous thing is that we all know the red-tape and obstacles involved when you try to get hold of something that you actually really need.

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 6-Apr-2012 10:50 am

    I love your post - there is something to really get one's teeth into!

    In Europe such hoarders are called 'Messies' and it is now described as pathological and there are counsellors, psychotherapists and coaches who offer practical help, advise and therapy for the condition (although I should imagine charges for their services are not cheap). Maybe we could go into partnership and set up a lucrative business advising NHS chiefs, admin. offices, wards, theatres and other departments what they need to get rid off after carrying out studies of course on the efficacy and necessity of things like masks in theatre!

    Where I worked we had to regularly clear out any stuff we no longer needed and it was the responsibility of each member of the multidisciplinary ward team to clear up after themselves and of the nurse in charge of the shift to ensure that nothing was left lying around in the office or on the ward before she left it to whoever took over. Corridors and workspace was always left clear.

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  • Anonymous

    anon 12.01

    thank you, am glad you enjoyed my post.

    Some staff do suggest we have a good old clear out and are usually met with the answer that 'we may need it one day so better keep hold of it'. Saying that though we did find a box of plastic things and no-one knew what they were for but they looked pretty expensive and obviously fitted onto the end of something that we never got round to buying, we have kept them just in case we find the other bit.

    I still work in an environment where the bathroom is full of zimmer frames, walking sticks, drip-stands etc and the hospital corridors are full of unused beds and the occasional broken commode (nice).

    Our dressings cupboard is so out of date it's mad, stuff we are told not to use because something better has come onto the market, so it just sits there when perhaps it could go to good use somewhere where a dressing is just a bit of old rag - at least ours are sterile, there's nothing wrong with them.

    There is an amazing amount of waste in the NHS but for some reason hospitals prefer to pay management consultants a fortune for telling us stuff we already know.

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