Understanding Facial Protection


Historically, selecting a mask based on user preference has been a common practice in the OR. Face masks were originally designed to protect the patient from microorganisms expelled from the mouth during talking, sneezing and coughing. 1 In other words, face masks were designed to protect the patient from the healthcare practitioner, not the other way around.

Which Mask is Correct?

If the clinician does not face a threat of exposure to fluids or smoke, most surgical masks available will provide sufficient protection. According to the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses’ (AORN) recommended practices, “all individuals entering restricted areas of the OR suite should wear a mask when open sterile items and equipment are present.” Masks should fully cover both the nose and mouth and be secured in a manner that prevents venting.5 All ties on the mask should be secured appropriately.

from Understanding Facial Protection | Health Vie 2010

Resources for further discussion:

  • The basics of surgical mask selection

    Historically, surgical attire and the ritual of gloving, gowning and donning of masks date back to the 1860s. It is known that live microorganisms are shed from the hair, exposed skin and mucus membranes. Based on studies done in Great Britain by Tuneval, it was concluded that the use of surgical masks during operations does not influence the number of potential pathogenic bacteria in the air close to the operative site and questioned the value of using surgical masks.1 Although there is no evidence to suggest that masks are not necessary to decrease wound infections, the use of surgical masks in protecting the surgical team from contaminated contacts is an important principle to consider. The protection of the health care professional, as well as the patient, has more recently become an issue of infection control and is becoming more complex. Some of the issues related to the real need to wear a surgical mask in the operating room (OR) are controlled by regulatory requirements.2

  • Do You Really Need To Wear A Face Mask?

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