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How to Choose the Safety Level for Surgical Gowns

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Unless you've been around the medical industry for some time, you may not realize that there are different safety levels for surgical gowns. Even if you have been in the medical field, you might not know how to choose the right surgical gown for your purposes. You want to make sure you're properly protected no matter what you're doing, so knowing how to choose the safety level for surgical gowns is not only important, but potentially life saving as well.

The Four Levels of Protection

The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have developed four levels of protection for surgical gowns. These standards are updated every so often, and the most recent update occurred in 2017. These two organizations are responsible for reviewing safety protocols and materials available for medical personal protection equipment or PPE. The four levels of protection are as follows.

Level 1 – Minimal: This level provides the basic amount of protection from fluids that you might come in contact with during your work. This level assumes that the risk of exposure to fluids is low or nonexistent.

Level 2 – Low: This level provides more protection against exposure to fluids and is designed for people working in areas with a low risk of exposure to fluids. Typically, people who wear this level of gown are engaged in minimally invasive office procedures.

Level 3 – Moderate: The level provides protection for employees who have a moderate risk of being exposed to potentially dangerous fluids. Procedures that might fall under this level include short invasive surgeries like mastectomies and arthroscopic orthopedic procedures.

Level 4 – High: This level provides the highest amount of protection against exposure to fluids and is meant for any procedure that requires a surgeon to put their hands and arms in a body cavity. Employees who are inevitably going to come into contact with fluids should wear a level 4 gown.

How to Choose the Gown Level

The decision to choose a level 4 surgical gown is fairly straightforward and you'll never go wrong with selecting a gown that offers more protection than you need. But, choosing among the first three levels is more complicated. You'll want to ask yourself four questions to help you decide:

  1. What type of procedure is being performed? If there is no procedure and you're just providing day-to-day patient care, level 1 or 2 will be fine. If you're performing an in-office procedure, go with level 3. Invasive procedures that require an operating room are more risky and warrant a level 4.
  2. How long will the procedure last? The longer you're exposed to fluids, the more likely you are to come in contact with them. Choose a higher level of protection for longer procedures.
  3. How much fluid is involved with the procedure? The more fluids there are, the more likely you are to be exposed to them. A higher level of protection is necessary for procedures that involve a lot of fluids.
  4. What is your role in the procedure? If you're the surgeon, choose a higher level of protection. If you're not putting your hands on or in the patient, a lower level will suffice.


Knowing the protection levels available for surgical gowns is vital in keeping you safe at work. Don't just go with the cheapest option because it may not offer you the protection you need. Take the time to assess your needs and purchase the surgical gown that's right for you.