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ABSTRACT: The routine wearing of individual cover gowns by nurses and visitors for direct care of healthy newborns was usual practice on the maternity ward of a regional referral center. We conducted a randomized trial in which cover gowns were not provided for care of infants in the experimental group (n= 222), but were maintained for control infants (n= 230). The principal outcome measured was Staphylococcus aureus colonization of the newborn nares or umbilicus on day 3 or day of discharge. Twenty percent (n= 51) of the experimental group (no gown) had a positive culture compared with 21 percent (n= 47) of the controls. Of the infants with positive cultures, two in each group exhibited symptoms of overt S. aureus infection. Experimental infants were similar to controls with respect to feeding method, route of delivery, amount of time spent rooming-in, and average number of visitors per day. In the group of positively cultured infants, the mothers experienced longer labor, and more vaginal examinations in labor, and the number of males undergoing circumcision was higher. We concluded that routine use of cover gowns was unwarranted, and we have altered the ward policy accordingly. This also has had a positive economic effect.