Veterinary Materials for Barrier, Drapability and Comfort

When is the last time you took a good look at your single-use surgical drape? Is your drape made of paper? Or some other non-woven?

Most general practices pull ‘drape’ from a roll for use as both wrap for instruments and for the surgical patient drape. Larger surgery practices have usually graduated to higher performing barrier non-wovens. Your choice of ‘drape’ could result in less strikethrough and better outcomes.

Why Drape?

Drapes are used in surgery to provide a barrier between the non-sterile patient and the sterile procedure performed above the patient drape. But not all materials used in veterinary surgical drapes perform equally. If fluids are striking through your drape, your sterile field is contaminated. Consider upgrading your drape material of choice.

Let’s take a minute to discuss the 3 primary Veterinary Surgical Materials:

Wetlaid Paper

‘Paper’ drape was the first non-woven/disposable material used in surgery to replace cotton/muslin. It is no longer in use in human hospitals. In veterinary surgery, ‘Paper’ is typically dispensed from a roll and is fanfolded by a tech to fit into an instrument set or tray and placed within the autoclave. (The paper drape is also used to wrap the instruments). In surgery, the drape is removed from the instrument set and an operative fenestration is cut through the drape. After unfolding and draping the patient, the procedure is performed through the hole cut in the drape.

To see Wetlaid in blood penetration test, please visit our YouTube page at


Spunlaced Polyester

Spunlace (trade name Sontara®), is very soft and pliable, as in polyester clothing. It can be either blue or green in color. Spunlace replaced ‘Paper’ as paper was found to hold creases (called ‘memory’) and did not drape well enough to form on uneven shapes, such as a patient’s body. Paper was also not suitable for garments (gowns) while Spunlace was quite comfortable (compared to paper) and fit nicely.

Drapes or gowns made with a base material of Spunlace, which has no inherent barrier quality, must be used in very heavy weights (measured in grams of material per square inch) or have second layers applied in order to provide any barrier at all. Spunlace fell out of favor in human surgery due to it’s poor protective barrier nature. As human surgical demand for the material dropped, price of Spunlace increased significantly.

To see Spunlaced Polyester in blood penetration test, please visit our YouTube page at

Spunbond-Meltblown-Spunbond (SMS)

SMS has been the human standard for base surgical materials since the early 1990’s. SMS is a three-ply design, with two ‘comfort’ layers sandwiching the barrier ‘Meltblown’ layer. The Spunbond layers achieve maximum drapability, while the meltblown stops fluids (while allowing air through, for comfort, in surgical gowns). SMS’ overall combination of barrier, cost and comfort is the best base material of any non-woven for veterinary surgery. As a safety precaution, SMS is designed to melt – rather than inflame – when in contact with a spark (such as cautery).

Due to it’s three-ply engineering, SMS base material performs much better as a barrier in very low gram weights compared to Spunlace, which is often nearly twice as ‘thick’ as SMS. The perception is that ‘thicker is better’ does not account for the performance of both materials in fluid transmission tests.

To see SMS in blood penetration test, please visit our YouTube page at

Don't Be Afraid To Reach Out Your Paw

Interested in learning how better materials can improve your operations?