THERE SIMPLY NO question that one of the major medical achievements of the last few decades has been the dramatic reduction in the mortality and morbidity of premature infants in the United States. This triumph has occurred as a result of the application of sound principles of basic and clinical science. Despite this success, certain procedures in nurseries have continued that have no scientific basis. Central among these is the wearing of scrub clothes and gowns by nursery staff and the use of gowns by parents who visit their high-risk infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), purportedly as a means of reducing rates of colonization of pathogens or infections in those infants.
Although there have been a number of studies that indicate that gowns, masks, hair nets, and caps are unnecessary, many have flaws and most NICUs have not been dissuaded from requiring the use of