Evaluation of the effect of medical gloves on dexterity and tactile sensibility using simulated clinical practice tests

Mylon, P.; Lewis, R.; Carré, M.J.; Martin, N. (2016)
Understanding the effect of medical gloves on manual performance is critical for improving glove design and mitigating the impediment to surgical performance caused by gloves. Existing test methods do not correspond well with clinical and surgical tasks. Based on interviews with clinicians, two new tests were proposed: locating a pulse in a simulated blood vessel, and placing and tying sutures in simulated tissue. A pilot study was carried out using 19 clinicians employed at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. Subjects performed each test three times, with latex and nitrile examination gloves, and without gloves, the order being randomised. In addition to objective test scores, subjects' perception of their relative performance in each condition was recorded. In the Pulse Location Test, performance was found to be significantly better without gloves, while differences between gloves were not statistically significant. Perceived performance correlated well with measured performance. In the Suturing Test, no statistically significant performance differences were found between the three hand conditions, although subjects perceived ungloved performance to be significantly better than with either the latex or nitrile gloves. The Pulse Location Test showed promise as a clinical performance evaluation tool, and could be used to improve medical glove design for better tactile performance. The discrepancy between subjects' perceived and measured performance in the Suturing Test needs further investigation to determine whether the perceived differences translate into genuine clinical performance differences that were not able to be measured using the current method, or whether the difference is purely psychological. Relevance to industry: The test methods outlined will allow manufacturers to understand the effect of gloves and glove properties on manual performance in medical tasks and improve the design accordingly. Reducing the inhibiting effect of gloves will improve safety and reduce the need to remove gloves for clinical tasks.

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