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

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Minor surgery is an important aspect of general practice. This is particularly the case in Australia, where the incidence of skin cancer is reported to be the highest in the world,1 and where general practitioners perform most surgical excisions for skin cancer.2

When the use of gloves for surgery was first implemented by William Stewart Halsted in 1890, it was in an attempt to protect his surgical scrub nurse from dermatitis as a result of contact with mercuric chloride — which was used for sterilisation processes — rather than to prevent infection.3 Nowadays, several guidelines exist in Australia and internationally, which recommend that GPs use sterile gloves for small procedures such as minor surgery in general practice.46 However, these guidelines are based on expert opinion rather than on medical evidence.

Before our study, about half of the participating GPs used non-sterile clean boxed gloves when conducting minor skin excisions in general practice, while the other half used sterile gloves. A comprehensive Medline search found few studies relating to the use of sterile versus non-sterile gloves (Appendix). Randomised…