Surgical Gown vs Isolation Gown – What Are the Differences? 3 types of Isolation Gowns You Should Know!

Surgical Gown vs Isolation Gown

Surgical Gown vs Isolation Gown – What Are the Differences? 3 types of Isolation Gowns You Should Know!

Surgical Gown vs Isolation Gown?  What are the differences?

To help you choose the right gown, we take you through all the fundamentals and the key things in selecting the best one.

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, the use of isolation gowns is now becoming popular among the public. They are part of personal protective equipment (PPE).  In this time of the pandemic, the demand for gowns from the public is also increasing. Because the rise of the virus spread is becoming more threatening. It gives us more reasons to find simple alternatives to fight the virus. Isolation gowns can significantly help people to protect themselves.

Knowing how to select the right isolation gown level for protection is the most important thing. With the many manufacturers producing isolation gowns, it gets confusing which ones have the best quality.


What Are Isolation Gowns?

An isolation gown is designed to help protect the front-line caregivers and staff from infectious droplets, fluid penetration, and solids, and help the wearer to prevent the transfer of micro-organisms to people with weakened immune systems.


Surgical Gowns vs Isolation Gowns:

  • Surgical Gown: Surgical gowns can be used for any risk level (Levels 1-4). A surgical gown is a personal protective garment intended to be worn by health care personnel during surgical procedures to protect both the patient and health care personnel from the transfer of microorganisms, body fluids, and particulate matter. All surgical gowns must be labeled as surgical gowns.
  • Surgical Isolation Gowns: Surgical isolation gowns are used when there is a medium to high risk of contamination. A need for larger critical zones than traditional surgical gowns. All areas of the surgical isolation gown except (bindings, cuffs, and hems) are considered critical zones of protection and must need the highest liquid barrier protection level for the gown. All seams must have the same liquid barrier protection as the rest of the gown.
  • Non-Surgical Gown: Non-surgical gowns are used to protect the wearer from the transfer of microorganisms and body fluids in low or minimal risk patient isolation situations. When there is a medium to high risk of contamination, non-surgical gowns are not worn during surgical procedures, invasive procedures.  Non-surgical gowns are like Surgical isolation gowns.


What is the Critical Zone for Surgical Gown?

The barrier requirements for the design and construction of surgical gowns, other protective apparel are based on the anticipated location and degree of liquid contact, given the expected conditions of use. The critical zones include those areas where direct contact with blood, body fluids, and other potentially infectious materials, although areas outside of the critical zones can inadvertently be sprayed or splashed as well.


Critical Protection Zones for Surgical Gowns

  • The entire front of the gown (areas A, B, and C), including the seam and other components, is required to have a barrier performance of at least level 1.
  • The critical zone compromises at least areas A and B.
  • The back of the surgical gown (area D) may be non-protective.

Example of a surgical gown

  1.  Critical zone — front
  2.  Critical zone — sleeve
  3.  Front
  4.  Back

Critical Zones for Surgical Gowns

Source: Critical Zones for Surgical Gowns. (2021, January 13). [Photograph].


Critical Zones for Surgical Isolation Gowns and Non-Surgical Gowns

  • The entire gown (areas A, B, and C), including seams but excluding cuff, hems, and bindings, is required to meet at least the minimum level 1 of barrier performance.
  • Surgical isolation gowns are used when there is a medium to high risk of contamination and need for larger critical zones than traditional surgical gowns.

Example of a surgical Isolation gown and non-surgical gown

  1. Critical zone — front
  2. Critical zone — sleeve
  3. Critical zone — back

Critical Zones for Surgical Isolation Gowns and Non-Surgical Gowns

Source: Critical Zones for Surgical Isolation Gowns and Non-Surgical Gowns. (2021, January 13). [Photograph].


“Surgical Gowns and Surgical Isolation Gowns are regulated by the FDA as a Class II medical device that requires a 510(k) premarket notification.”
“Non-Surgical Gowns are Class I medical devices (exempt from premarket review)”


The Level of Protection Standards

The standard ANSI/AAMI PB70:2012 created a classification system (Levels 1-4) for all apparel used in a healthcare setting. This includes isolation gowns, surgical gowns, and more. The FDA requires that all relevant medical textile manufacturers must meet these standards.

Protective apparel must conform to a set of standards and undergo a specific set of tests to determine “the liquid barrier performance and classification of protective apparel and drapes intended for use in health care facilities.”

Follow the link below to know more about the standards of the US and EU.

What is the standard of medical gowns? 2 differences between USA and EU standards


3 Things to Evaluate When Choosing an Isolation Gown

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that you consider three things when choosing gowns for healthcare settings.


Who will be wearing the gown? In what setting will they be working?
Answers to those questions determine what type of isolation gowns you need.


What are isolation gowns made of?
Disposable isolation gowns are made from polyethylene or polypropylene. Reusable isolation gowns are made from cotton or synthetic materials like polyester or a poly-cotton blend.
They can also be latex-free.

Synthetic materials generally do a better job of blocking fluids and are preferred over cotton when it comes to COVID-19 prevention.

Risk Level

The risk level of the environment and type of exposure anticipated determines what types of isolation gowns you should wear.
For example, in a low-risk environment (like a blood draw), the medical professional needs an AAMI, Level 2 gown.


How to Put on and Remove an Isolation Gown?

The ease or difficulty with which a gown is put on and removed may affect its effectiveness and the potential for contamination, especially during the doffing of a contaminated gown.

Put on

  • Select appropriate type and size
  • The opening is in the back
  • Secure at neck and waist
  • If a gown is too small, use two gowns for better protection
    • Put on the first gown with the opening in front and the second gown over the first with the opening in the back.

Take off

  • Unfasten ties
  • Peel gown away from neck and shoulder
  • Turn contaminated outside toward the inside
  • Fold or roll into a bundle (Only the “clean” part of the gown should be visible)
  • Discard

It is important for Health Care Providers (HCP) to perform hand hygiene before and after removing PPE. Hand hygiene should be performed by using alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60-95% alcohol or washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If hands are visibly soiled, soap and water should be used before returning to alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


How to Choose the Right Isolation Gown to Prevent COVID-19

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 resources, selecting the correct level of isolation gown depends on the protection needed for the circumstances.


For patients with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, please use non-sterile disposable patient isolation gowns, which are used for routine patient care in healthcare settings.

Medical Professionals

For medical professionals engaging in activities where the risk of bodily fluid exposure is low or minimal, gowns that claim minimal or low-risk levels of barrier protection (ANSI/AAMI PB70 Level 1 or Level 2) can be used.
For situations where medium to high-risk levels of contamination and need for a large critical zone, isolation gowns that claim moderate to high barrier protection (ANSI/AAMI PB70 Level 3 or Level 4) can be used.



Companies might advertise different product names when they are selling isolation gowns (e.g., patient gown, nursing gown, procedural gown, non-surgical gown, etc.). You should pay attention to function, intended use, and what level of protection is provided. The packaging and description clearly indicate what level of protection it offers.
With the key factors in selecting an isolation gown, you will be guided accordingly in getting the right one!

The Product label is more important than the product name.



  1. Medical gown. (2021, January 13). U.S. FOOD & DRUG ADMINISTRATION. 
  2. Selecting Protective Clothing. (2020, April 9). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  3. Personal Protective Equipment: Questions and Answers. (2021, April 9). Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. 
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