VETPARTNERS is researching whether reusable or disposable drapes are linked to better postoperative outcomes for patients – and how we can potentially improve our impact on the environment.
The VetPartners Sustainability and Clinical Board teams are collaborating for the first time on a unique study called Project DRAPES, which stands for Drapes in Routine Aseptic Procedures for Environmental Sustainability.
They will join forces in a large-scale study across VetPartners practices, looking at post-operative infections and other wound complications following routine spaying and neutering of cats and dogs.
If reusable textile drapes prove to perform the same as, or better than, single-use ones, practice teams will be able to choose reusable drapes with confidence, reducing waste and environmental impact without compromising patient care.
VetPartners is keen to reduce the ecological impact of veterinary care, with many practice teams making an effort to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly, whether through reducing greenhouse emissions from anaesthetic gas use, becoming more energy efficient or cutting carbon emissions.
The Clinical Board and Sustainability teams submitted a grant application to PetSavers, the fundraising and grant awarding arm of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), and has been awarded funding to support the research.
The study starts in February, with four practices – Ash Tree Vets, Aireworth Vets, Minster Vets and Hampden Vets – piloting the project. Patients undergoing routine neutering will be randomly assigned to receive either reusable or disposable drapes for their procedure.
The study team will then use practice management system data from post-operative checks on patients to check whether rates of post-operative wound complications differ between the two groups.
Project DRAPES was the idea of Ash Tree Vets clinical director Nicole Dyer, who approached the VetPartners Clinical Board to ask if there was potential for a study amid concerns about the impact of single-use drapes on the environment.
Nicole said: “Many practitioners, including myself, are more and more interested in how we can reduce the environmental impact in practice. Whilst choosing reusable products may reduce the practice’s waste, there are evidence gaps as to whether this has any impact on our patient outcomes.
“I thought that as a large group of diverse practices we are in the perfect position to collect this data from our teams and potentially use that to answer some of these clinical questions. As vets we want to make sure we are making the best decisions for our patients. To do this we often look for evidence that support what we are doing day to day. We want to reduce environmental impact however not at the detriment to our patients.
“As someone who has very little experience in research, it was great to have the support and enthusiasm from the Clinical Board and Sustainability team and collaborate to take this from just an idea to a solid project.”
Project DRAPES has received approval from the RCVS ethical review panel. The research will ask the question: A multi-centre study of reusable versus disposable drapes: does their use affect post-operative wound complication rates in routine surgeries?
VetPartners clinical research manager Jenny Stavisky said: “We have looked at all the research on drapes in veterinary and human medicine and there is no evidence one way or the other on which drape should be preferred for the least post-operative complications.
“We want to know how our practice teams who want to make more sustainable choices, and are committed to reducing their environmental footprint, can do that without having an impact on their patients. We welcome our practice team members bringing research ideas to us as Nicole has done, and, as a Clinical Board, we support colleagues who would like to get involved with the research.”
VetPartners Head of Environment, Social and Governance Hannah James said: “We have a team with research experience and, as a large group, we have access to incredible data.
“If our studies show there is no difference between the two types of drape, our clinical teams can confidently make the choice and know they are using something more sustainable and that we have the evidence showing it’s not compromising patient outcomes. If one type of drape is compromising patient safety, we have a better evidence base record to protect patient safety and outcomes.”
For media enquiries, please contact Amanda Little, VetPartners PR and Communications Director. Email email@example.com