HomeSurgery ArticlesWhat Do Surgeons Wear In The Operating Room?

What Do Surgeons Wear In The Operating Room?

When we think about surgeons, we tend to imagine dashing men and women wearing distinctive colored shirts, headwear, and gowns.

Such is their typical attire while they perform intricate and life-saving surgeries.

But they do not wear this uniform only to make a fashion statement.

These ensure the safety of the surgeons and the patients! So, what do surgeons wear in the operating room?

How critical are they for the success of each surgery? You will find out here.


Scrubs are the primary uniform of surgeons and operating room professionals.

These are the v-neck shirt and the loose-fitting pants that characterize surgical team members even in pop media.

This uniform’s name came from “scrubbing in,” when surgeons and personnel sterilize themselves and wear the attire.

Scrubs give harmful microorganisms fewer places to hide. It also protects wearers and surgical patients from infections and exposure to bodily fluids during procedures.

Hospitals typically own these scrubs, and disposable scrubs are available as well.

As mandated by the standards of the American College of Surgeons, wearers must change their contaminated scrubs before talking to family members after a procedure.

Moreover, scrubs used in the surgery must not be worn elsewhere in the facility without an apron or covering.

However, personnel must never wear contaminated scrubs outside the hospital complex.

Scrubs now come in different colors and styles depending on the country and the hospital’s policies.

Such color-coding can help people distinguish between different health professionals and what they do. For example, anesthesiologists in England and Wales wear maroon scrubs.

However, there is a deeper, historical reason why most surgeons typically wear blue or green scrubs.

As narrated by Board Vitals, surgeons used white scrubs in the early decades of the 20th century. But what seemed to be a typical uniform unconsciously harmed surgeons.

First, it is insanely difficult to scratch blood stains from white garments. The other reason is much more sinister:

They found out that white scrubs can cause headaches and “blind” surgeons as they shift their sight from blood’s dark color to the white fabric.

It was even linked to headaches. Eventually, doctors chose to change the color of their surgical uniforms.

But why did they choose green and blue? The answer lies in the color theory. In the color wheel, green and blue complement red.

Such color choice helps surgeons focus on the patients’ organs and blood, helping them see the surgical area clearly and critically.

It also avoids distracting spots of color that appear after staring at the color red for so long.

Surgical gowns

Surgical gowns cover the scrubs, offering another layer of protection between the surgeons and the patients.

These are long-sleeved with elastic cuffs and synthetically made since they are discarded after each procedure immediately.

Surgical sleeves

Surgical sleeves cover the lower arms, providing extra protection to the skin above the gloves and below the surgical gown.

Although these are not required, they help in extensive operations that involve so much blood and bodily fluids.


Though optional, waterproof aprons can be indispensable in surgical procedures. These are applicable when so much blood and bodily fluids spill from the patients’ bodies.

Such operations include Caesarian section delivery and surgeries that involve pus and “messy” treatments.

Also, as mentioned earlier, scrubs used during surgeries must be covered by a clean apron if the wearer wants to go elsewhere at the hospital.

Scrub caps

Since the 1950s, scrub caps (also called surgical caps or skullcaps) have been a standard requirement in operating rooms.

Like in restaurants, headwear like this keeps pieces of hair from falling, protects the users’ hair from fluids, prevents contamination from microorganisms residing in the wearers’ heads. Many scrub caps are washable and reusable cotton.

The American College of Surgeons calls skullcaps the symbol of the surgical profession.

Hence, they must be cover all hair as much as possible, leaving only some sideburns or the nape of the neck.

Cloth skullcaps must be washed daily, while paper skull caps must be disposed of after use.

Hospitals are advised to respect religious headwear requirements without putting surgical patients in danger.

Surgical masks

Surgical masks have served as required protective equipment since the Spanish Flu pandemic a hundred years ago.

They protect the surgeons’ mouth and nose from respiratory pathogens and contagious diseases.

Furthermore, they block the droplets from the wearer, keeping the operating room sterile and safe for vulnerable surgical patients.

Surgical theater boots and shoe covers

Protective footwear and covers also prevent surgeons and personnel from exposure to microorganisms, bodily fluids, and chemicals.

Shoe covers are composed of lightweight and disposal materials.

Face shields and safety goggles

During operations, blood, chemicals, and fluids might accidentally spill in the room. Therefore, the eyes need to be protected as well.

Face shields and safety goggles keep the eyes from exposure and injuries from such splashes. These are also used in laser procedures.


Surgeons do not touch anything in the operating room with their bare hands.

Since such an environment is delicately sterile, personnel wear gloves that protect equipment and patients from contamination.

They also help wearers from exposure to blood and other liquids.

However, this sterility has a price: some surgeons complain that gloves can hinder them from making precise surgical techniques.

Latex gloves also cause allergies to some wearers. Because of this, manufacturers continue to innovate and improve this protective equipment.

Most importantly, despite these inconveniences, sterile gloves are required for all surgical treatments.

Surgeons strictly follow protocols regarding gloves, which they use whenever they examine or touch a patient.

They never reuse gloves, and they wash their hands before and after removing the gloves they used.

Surgeons also immediately throw away used gloves in bins for contaminated medical waste.

Other attire recommendations in the operating room

The American College of Surgeons strictly prohibits earrings and jewelry on the head or neck because they pose risks of accidents and contamination.

Likewise, surgical caps must completely cover sideburns and ponytails. Masks must never dangle nor be removed at any time in the operating room as well.

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