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Why Do Surgeons Raise Their Hands?

Surgeons have the lives of patients on their hands. They open the patients’ bodies and treat diseases with different tools and, most importantly, their knowledge and skills.

When pop media shows surgeries and scenes in operating rooms, you might have seen surgeons raise their hands before starting the treatment.

Why do surgeons raise their hands? In this article, you will find the reason.

The risk of infection in hospitals

First, it is crucial to understand what surgeons and operating room personnel do before surgeries and operations begin. One must also understand the situation of hospitals and the risk of contamination in these facilities.

Surgeons bear in mind that anything they might touch in the room can lead to deep and even fatal infections. The hospital is a hotspot for diseases and germs. Contagious illnesses and microorganisms can quickly spread in the facility, including the operating room. Because of this, surgeons take measures to stop infections.

Surgical scrubbing

Before entering the operating room, surgeons spend at least three to seven minutes cleaning their hands with chemicals.

Hence, surgeons must not compromise the sanitation of their hands. They make sure that their hands and forearms are free and clean from any microbes or dirt.

Surgical scrubbing aims to remove all bacteria on their hands and arms. This way, there will not be accidental contamination which will put the surgical patient in danger.

The importance of surgeons raising their hands

After scrubbing their hands, surgeons must keep both their hands above their waist and below their necks. They are required to keep their hands visible in the operating room.

If they bring their hands below their waist, these will be considered contaminated—they must scrub and sanitize their hands again.

Furthermore, surgeons keep their hands up so the water will drip away from their nails into their arms. Keeping their hands away from their bodies, surgeons dry them with a sterile towel.

Even as they put on their gown, surgeons are always aware of where their hands are. They may even put antiseptic lotion for good measure.

The different types of handwash for surgeons

Surgeons raise their hands in the operating room to curb all risks of infections. They also hinder any opportunity for microorganisms to enter the patients’ bodies.

For the same reason, surgeons wash their hands in different ways in hospitals. Unlike the rest of us, surgeons perform three types of handwash in hospitals. These depend on the procedure they will execute and where they are in the hospital.

Social hand wash (routine hand wash)

The social hand wash is the fundamental type of sanitary measure that doctors and surgeons do. It is the foundation of regulations that control infections, removing the bacteria on their hands.

Surgeons must perform this handwash after starting their shift; and while preparing for surgeries, eating food, before wearing gloves, and before proceeding to a patient. Similarly, surgeons conduct social handwash before aseptic treatments and providing medicines.

In performing social handwash, surgeons do not use bar soap. Instead, they apply antimicrobial liquid soap. Surgeons wash and rub their hands for at least thirty seconds with warm water. Finally, they will dry their hands with a disposable paper towel.

Antiseptic hand hygiene

Antiseptic hand hygiene supplements routine or social handwash. Surgeons do this in high-risk and isolated areas in the hospital.

Antiseptic hand hygiene is conducted in minor surgeries, intensive care units, and wound care. Surgeons perform this as well before and after applying catheters.

Surgical hand wash

Most importantly, surgeons perform the surgical hand wash. This technique kills all bacteria, fungi, and microorganisms before surgical procedures. Most hospitals use chlorhexidine gluconate and povidone-iodine as antiseptics.

After washing their hands this way, surgeons dry their hands with a sterile towel. Surgeons do this hand wash before wearing their gloves so that if they would break or get damaged, there will be no infection.

How surgeons wash their hands

Handwash and raising their hands assure surgeons that these will be sterile for the operation. Hence, it is also worth understanding how surgeons wash their hands, including the rules they follow to keep their hygiene.

These are the basic steps of surgical handwash, according to the British Columbia Campus Open Publishing:

  1. The surgeon must remove all jewelry like rings, watches, and bracelets because microbes reside there.
  2. The surgeon must also remove all nail extenders or chipped nail polish.
  3. The operating room supervisor will check if the surgeon has sores or wounds.
  4. Using liquid hand soap, the surgeon must remove all visible dirt.
  5. Turn on the warm water and apply antimicrobial soap.
  6. The hands must stay above the elbows. The surgeon will scrub each finger and the skin in between. Then, the surgeon will wash the back and front portions of the hands.
  7. The surgeon will scrub the arms in an up-and-down manner.
  8. He will do the same steps on the other hand and arm.
  9. Afterward, he will rinse his hands and arms through the running water.
  10. The surgeon will dry his hands with a clean and sterile towel. He will dry his fingertips first in a downward motion.
  11. The surgeon will wear sterile gloves. (He must ensure that he has no latex allergy, and gloves are not a substitute for proper surgical handwash.) 

The final step requires the surgeon to keep the hands above the waist while entering the operating room.

Strict handwashing and raising their hands

Strict handwashing and raising hands to avoid contamination ensure the safety of surgeries. These are crucial sterile procedures that will protect the surgeons’ hands and the patients’ bodies from germs and bacteria.

These techniques also maintain the sanitation of the operating room and the tools that they use.

By raising their hands, surgeons curb two kinds of germs:

  • Resident microorganisms reside in the epidermis. Although they are generally benign, these germs may cause infections in deep tissues.
  • Transient microorganisms include infectious bacteria that do not naturally belong on the skin. Examples of these types of germs are E.coli, salmonella, and viruses.
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