What is the difference between polyethylene and polypropylene isolation gowns?

With an increased demand for protection against harmful agents in healthcare and hospital settings, especially with the ongoing COVID pandemic, the use of isolation gowns have increased.

Let’s see what isolation gowns are, the basic types of gowns, and what types of gowns you should choose according to the authorities’ safety standards.

Isolation Gowns

Isolation gowns are an integral part of a strategy against infection control that also involves:

  • Face masks
  • Gloves
  • Shields

Most isolation gowns have a solid build consisting of a single panel for complete frontal coverage against fluids or particulate. Most people slide the gowns from above, wrap themselves with the back panels, and tie it into place.

These gowns are commonly used in surgical rooms, isolation wards, and ICU’s because of the protective material the gowns feature. However, these isolation gowns come in a variety of materials for different applications.

Types Of Isolation Gowns

Most isolation gowns have sleeve cuffs with or without elastic wrists, and thumb loops that come in the following categories:

  • Polyethylene Isolation Gowns
  • Polypropylene Isolation Gowns

Other types are derived from these two and include poly coated propylene, multi-ply or SMS isolation gowns, and spunlace along with many others.

Let’s discuss these isolation gowns in detail and identify their properties:

Polyethylene Isolation Gown

Polyethylene Isolation Gown is created using the fiber polyethylene. Polyethylene is known for providing excellent protection against fluids.

For example, a patient’s fluids such as blood, sputum, breath, and urine are not the only fluids that contain harmful, pathogenic germs that threaten the health and safety of the wearer. Polyethylene gowns provide better resistance against fluid exposure of this kind.

Polypropylene Isolation Gowns

Polypropylene isolation gowns also serve as a barrier against harmful agents.

However, the major difference between the polyethylene and polypropylene isolation gown is the ability to resist any stain residue on the gown. This means the fibers of such material present a property where they do not pick any dye from an external source. That is why it is widespread among surgeons compared to any other practice.

In minimal fluid settings, the polypropylene isolation gowns provide protection in environments with fluid anticipation.

AAMI Levels (Isolation Gown Levels Of Protection)

Not all isolation gowns are the same. Depending on the protection level requirement, the stitching and other characteristics of these gowns change. These requirements are well-defined through the help of AAMI (Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation) level standards.

To define the set standard’s ultimate protection level, the association has acknowledged the critical zones of an isolation gown. It explains the levels through which barrier protection is made possible to select the best isolation gown for utilization among healthcare professionals.

These critical zones constitute of the sleeves and the gowns that are the main areas associated with the highest risk level for fluid and blood exposure – pathogens. As the levels increase, the need for better barrier protection for the critical zones is intensified.

Below are the four levels of protection:

  • AAMI LEVEL 1 (Non-Sterile): Minimum scale for fluid barrier protection and used in general hospital settings. Not suitable for ICUs, blood draws, or pathology labs as provide only slight protection against fluids.
  • AAMI LEVEL 2 (Non-Sterile): Low- level fluid barrier protection as these effectively protect against fluid penetration that might take place through blood draws or splatter. These isolation gowns are ideal to be used in pathology labs and ICUs.
  • AAMI LEVEL 3 (Sterile): Moderate level protection against fluid exposure in cases of arterial blood draws, ER, insertion of IVs, and trauma work requiring sterile equipment. These are also operational against soaking and blood splatters.
  • AAMI LEVEL 4 (Sterile): Maximum level of fluid barrier protection. These medical gowns are ideal for all high-risk settings (surgery and virus) for extended periods. These provide protection against non-airborne diseases, pathogen resistance, and are highly effective as a barrier to various fluids.

Wearing The Right Isolation Gown Is Necessary For Proper Protection

A PPE gown or any protective equipment is only useful when used appropriately according to the circumstances.

Polypropylene and Polyethylene isolation gowns offer satisfactory protection against many infectious fluids and contaminants. They must be chosen carefully to protect the wearer.