What are the Different Draping Methods in Surgery?

What are the different draping methods in surgery
What are the different draping methods in surgery
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Surgery, whether a minor or major one, is a procedure of great sensitivity which requires great attention to the details. Apart from the complex procedures, surgeries are also highly risky because these can cause several infections and complications if proper care is not taken during the procedure. For this purpose, surgical drapes are used to ensure a safe surgery environment. These surgical drapes help to protect the patient from any potential infection they might get during the surgery by coming in contact with infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses. The surgical drapes are also helpful in avoiding any accidental injury that might happen in the operating room.

Surgical drapes help to create a barrier between the surgical site and the surroundings in the operating room. The materials that are used to create these surgical drapes can either be disposable or non-disposable. The disposable drapes are often made using paper, plastic, or a combination. Non-disposable ones are made of cloth commonly cotton.

What is draping?

Draping before surgery

Draping before surgery

As draping is a very essential part of the surgery, it should be done accurately to ensure the complete safety of the patient. Apart from this, draping also ensures the modesty of the patient and the patient’s physical comfort. The entire operating staff should be aware of the draping techniques and their significance. The methods used for draping can vary according to different surgical positions which include supine position draping, lithotomy position draping, draping an extremity, and draping for laparotomy surgery.

What is the method of draping in surgery?

The first thing which is used in the draping procedure is a drape sheet which is placed from the foot to the knees. This drape sheet is selected by the scrub and is placed by keeping it high until it is opened and then dropping it. After this, a second drape sheet is used below the incision site. The edge of this second drape sheet should be just below the incision site.

The draping procedure can be done using either disposable or non-disposable drapes. If disposable drapes are used during the surgery then the towels normally include a removable strip with an adhesive on the folded edge. Four separate sterile towels are placed around the incision site.

The towels are individually provided by the scrub to the surgeon. In the draping process, a scrub unfolds the first towel and passes the drape to the surgeon with the strip side facing the surgeon, and then removes the adhesive strip. This first towel is then placed by the surgeon on the near side of the line of the incision.

The surgeon leaves only enough exposed skin which is required for incision. After placing the first towel the second towel is placed in the same way at the lower side of the line of the incision. Then the third towel is placed in the same way at the upper side of the line of incision and finally, the fourth and last towel is placed on the far side of the line of incision. The adhesive area in the towels helps to hold the drapes in their place.

Draping method

Draping method

If during the surgery, non-disposable drapes are used then the scrub cuffs the towels about 3 inches, and then these folded edges are placed near the line of the incision. To hold these towels in place, towel clips are used in place of adhesive strips.

After this procedure is done, the last step in draping is the use of a surgical drape (lap sheet). This surgical drape includes a fenestration or opening for the incision. This drape also includes an indication that represents the head or foot portion of the drape. The folds of this drape are thrown over the table and then it is opened towards the foot and head of the patient.

It is important to observe all the aseptic techniques while using drapes which includes handling the drapes as little as possible and avoiding touching them on any possibly contaminated area. Also, the doctor’s gloved hands should not touch the skin of the patient. Also, if a drape becomes contaminated during the surgical procedure, the surgeon or scrub should discard the drape immediately. A contaminated drape affects the sterility of the patient.

Draping methods in surgery

Different types of drapes are used during surgery to protect the patient and the operating staff from any potential infection. These drapes are placed using draping techniques. Some of the common draping methods are as follows.

  • Cloth reusable drapes

The reusable drapes are made of fabric, commonly cotton, and can be washed and reused. These drapes should be kept clean and sterilized to ensure the prevention of infection.

Reusable drapes

Reusable drapes

  • Disposable drapes

Disposable drapes are used only once and are disposed of after use. These drapes are becoming increasingly popular nowadays. These are made of non-woven material of natural or synthetic origin.

  • Plastic incisional drapes

These drapes include adhesive strips and are often used for eye or hip fracture surgeries.

  • Laparotomy drapes

It is a large non-woven drape that includes an incise drape in the center for incision and the rest of the area is absorbent.

  • Abdominal drape

Abdominal drapes have a fenestration or opening which is used in the surgical procedure of the abdominal area.

  • Lithotomy sheet

This drape is used for gynecological procedures. It is also used in pelvic area surgeries.

  • Perineal drape

A perineal drape is used for surgery of the perineal area.


Surgical drapes are an essential part of surgical procedures that help to prevent infections and complications during surgery. Using these surgical drapes can help to make the environment in the operating room sterile and ensures minimum chances of getting an infection. These surgical drapes are available in a wide variety. Some are made of fabric and are reusable while others are disposable and must be disposed of after use. Also, the scrub and the surgeon place these surgical drapes in a specific order on the patient around the line of incision which helps to expose only the area of the incision and protects the other parts from any harmful bacteria or viruses.