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August 1994

Starch Powder Contamination of Surgical Wounds

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Surgery, University of California—San Francisco (Drs Hunt and Goodson), and the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool, England (Dr Slavin). The authors have no financial interest in the Regent Corp, Greenville, SC, its parent corporation, the London Rubber Company, or any of its subsidiaries.

Arch Surg. 1994;129(8):825-827. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1994.01420320047008

Objectives:  To determine if (1) lubricating starch glove powder contaminates surgical wounds even after powdered gloves have been washed and/or wiped; (2) starch powder can be eliminated from surgical wounds when the surgical team wears only powderless gloves; and (3) starch powder introduced into surgical wounds may increase scar formation.

Design and Outcome Measures:  Human surgical wounds were irrigated at the end of operations in which various combinations of powdered and powderless gloves were used. Team members who wore powdered gloves washed them in a saline solution and wiped them on surgical towels. The starch particles in the irrigant were counted. In addition, two series of breast biopsies were performed, one in which the surgeon wore powdered gloves and the other, powderless gloves. Pathologic specimens from reexcisions (for carcinoma) were examined for starch granules and inflammation.

Results:  Starch granules were found in proportion to the number of surgical team members who wore powdered gloves and to the proximity of the wearer(s) to the operative site. Exclusive use of powderless gloves eliminated the presence of starch powder. Starch-containing phagocytes in tissue were surrounded by an inflammatory reaction, and in one patient the inflammation and scarring were severe.

Conclusions:  Starch powder is introduced into wounds by the use of powdered gloves despite glove washing and wiping. It can be eliminated by the exclusive use of powderless gloves. The inflammatory reaction to starch is variable and can be severe.(Arch Surg. 1994;129:825-828)