Handen wassen, handschoenen en mondkapjes op de OK

Eens omstreden, nu routine
Historisch perspectief
17-05-2021
Thomas M. van Gulik en Victor de Ridder

Handen wassen, het opereren met handschoenen aan en het dragen van mondkapjes doen we in de chirurgie al meer dan 100 jaar. Deze maatregelen zijn routine geworden, terwijl ze bij de invoering nog omstreden waren. Een blik terug in de tijd.

Washing hands, gloves and face masks in the OT; once controversial, now routine

Washing hands and wearing gloves and face masks were introduced in surgery as part of an antiseptic and aseptic strategy in the second half of the 19th century. The aim was to prevent germs contaminating the wound in the patient operated on. However, when introduced in surgical practice, these measures were controversial. The need to wash hands was initially ignored. The first rubber gloves were omitted by many surgeons because they hampered ‘tissue feel’ in the fingers. There were doubts about the use of face masks because normal breathing would not form droplets that could contaminate the wound. Until the mid-20th century therefore, there were surgeons who did not wear gloves or face masks during surgery. Although wearing face masks during surgery is routine today, there is still no scientific evidence that this policy is effective in the prevention of surgical site infections.

Conflict of interest and financial support: none declared.