How to Drape a Patient in the Operating Room

Written by katherine williams
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How to Drape a Patient in the Operating Room
Draping creates a sterile field for surgery. (surgery image by Andrey Rakhmatullin from

Surgical draping a patient reduces the risk of surgical site infections by forming a barrier between the surgical area and probable sources of bacteria. Draping isolates the treatment area for surgery and protects it from contaminants. Sterile drapes, when placed on the patient by surgical assistants, must remain undisturbed; if the sterile drapes touch an unsterile field, a new sterile drape is used. A member of the surgical team (the circulator), is responsible for disposing of all contaminated drapes.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Sterile draping pack (for specific surgery type)
  • Surgical clips
  • Surgical stand

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  1. 1

    Remove the outer covering of the draping pack (should be done by an "unscrubbed" surgical assistant). Gently pull and release each layer of covering away from the centre of the pack. Keep your hands from touching the inner covering of the sterile pack.

  2. 2

    Open the inner covering of the sterile draping pack (should be done by a "scrubbed" surgical assistant). Remove the fan-folded draping sheets one at a time. Hold the sheets high above the waist to prevent contamination.

  3. 3

    Place the folded edge of a sterile draping sheet near the incision site to expose it for surgery (should be done by the "scrubbed" assistant or a surgeon). Lay another sheet on the opposite side, in the same manner to further outline the incision site. Continue draping with additional sterile sheets to cover the entire surgical area and secure with surgical clips.

Tips and warnings

  • Sterile draping may be opened on a surgical stand or with a surgical assistant holding the pack in a sterile field.
  • Only the circulator is allowed to remove contaminated items from the surgical area.
  • Do not attempt to reposition incorrectly placed drapes. Consider it contaminated, and replace with a new sterile sheet.
  • Draping that has holes or tears is considered contaminated; Replace with a new sterile sheet.
  • Dispose of contaminated draping sheets in biohazard bags.
  • In some operating rooms, draping is done by surgical assistants and surgeons, together or separately.
  • Scrubbed personnel should stay in the sterile zone to prevent contamination.
  • The surgical site must be cleaned and prepped before draping.

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