In both TNG and DS9, surgical gowns were used. These gowns covered the wearer's entire body, with the exception of the face. They never go into why they wear the gowns, but it is assumed that it is for cleanliness.

Now, it would make sense that the Doctor has no need to wear a surgical gown, as he cannot have any microbes, etc. But on multiple occasions, he has a nurse/medic assisting him, who has not been scrubbed, and is not wearing a surgical gown.

Now, you could make the argument that VOY has more advanced medicine. However, medicine on VOY is paused, if you will, due to the separation of Voyager from the rest of the Federation. That, and it plays at the same time as DS9, which DID use surgical gowns.

Is there an in-universe answer? If not, best guess?

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    The delta quadrant is more sterile? – Xantec Oct 3 '12 at 13:16
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    The assistants don't operate. – bitmask Oct 3 '12 at 13:24
  • An in-universe answer that isn't pure technobabble? – John O Oct 3 '12 at 13:32
  • @bitmask - The assistants may not operate, but they do wear the gown. Reference DS9 3x13 (Life Support). I know there is at least one TNG episode where the assistant wears the gown, but I do not have TNG with me, so I do not know the episode. – Mike Christiansen Oct 3 '12 at 14:26
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    Why can't the Doctor have microbes? He has a solid form when being projected. He can pick up things as he moves around which would likely remain until he deactivated. – BBlake Oct 3 '12 at 17:39

Skimming through the Surgeon, Surgery, and Exploratory surgery pages at Memory Alpha, it looks like no one in Voyager went "under the knife" in a way that would have actually required surgical gowns.

Cosmetic surgery has, as far as I recall, never been shown onscreen. We just see the end result, sometimes with the doctor adding some finishing touches, so there could have been surgical gowns involved.

That said, it also doesn't seem to actually be necessary anymore. The Sterile field (or "steri-field") replaced scrubbing in. It was mentioned by McCoy in TOS 2x15, Journey to Babel, and supposedly in TNG 5x16, Ethics. (I found McCoy mentioning it, but not anyone in TNG.)

The current use of the surgical gowns is probably to limit any mess made (blood/etc) during invasive surgery, rather than to protect against contaminants.

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    Dr. Crusher also mentions the quarantine field in [TNG S05E09, "A Matter of Time"](en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/A_Matter_of_Time_(episode)). – jwodder Oct 3 '12 at 15:07
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    I'm pretty sure Seven "went under the knife" when she had her implants removed – Kalamane Oct 3 '12 at 19:13
  • @Kalamane Ah, somehow that didn't pop into mind. But that happened during the course of The Gift, when Kes was occupied with her change and Paris was occupied with piloting near Borg space. I think the Doctor worked alone. – Izkata Oct 3 '12 at 19:17
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    @Kalamane, !! the mental pictures that flew thought my mind until I remebered she was Borg :) – SeanC Oct 3 '12 at 21:21
  • It's also possible that surgical gowns remained a cultural item associated with doctors for some time after they became functionally obsolete. With Voyager being perennially short of materials and isolated from the prying eyes of Emily Post, they may have decided to omit the "meaningless" cultural ceremony. – Robert Columbia Nov 1 '19 at 15:11

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