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This is an excerpt from a member-only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe.

Study shows surgical teams still at risk for accidental sharps injuries

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August 1, 2010

It’s time for hospitals to adopt preventive measures to protect all the members of surgical teams performing procedures in their operating rooms (OR), says California surgeon Ramon Berguer, MD, FACS.

That call for action follows a new study that shows the number of surgeons, residents, and nurses experiencing accidental injuries from sutures, scalpels, syringes, and other devices in the OR has actually increased by 6.5% since the introduction of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act in 2000. Berguer, chief of surgery at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez, CA, and a lead author of the study, says he is not surprised by the findings. 

“I work in the operating room; I know what the culture is like,” says Berguer. “I have adopted safety strategies myself and I have pushed my hospital to do so. I understand the struggle that is taking place.”

For instance, although statistics show that blunt-tip suture needles help reduce injury rates for every staff member participating in a surgery, many surgeons still won’t use them.

This is why Berguer argues that it’s time hospitals change their thinking and adopt policies to protect everyone in the OR.

The study, published in the April Journal of the American College of Surgeons, found that many surgical teams and hospitals are not using devices and procedures proven to reduce the risk of accidental needlesticks in the OR, such as blunt-tip suture needles and sheath scalpels. You can find the study, “Increase in Sharps Injuries in Surgical Settings Versus Nonsurgical Settings after Passage of National Needlestick Legislation,” at www.journalacs.org/article/S1072-7515(09)01654-8/abstract

It’s not just surgeons who are at risk from accidental exposure to bloodborne pathogens from sharps injuries, but all members of the surgical team, says Berguer, a spokesperson for Ethicon, the major manufacturer and seller of blunt-tip needles in the United States.

Use of blunt-tip suture needles—which have been specially engineered to reduce the risk of accidental needlesticks and meet the standards under the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act—have been met with resistance from some surgeons. Although they can’t be used in all instances, surgeons can use blunt-tip suture needles for suturing soft tissues, such as muscle.  

What the study found

The study looked at data from 87 hospitals in the United States. Researchers analyzed findings from more than 31,000 reported accidental sticks from 1993 to 2006, including 7,186 sticks reported in OR settings. According to the study, most injuries were caused by:

  • 43.3% suture needles
  • 17% scalpel blades
  • 12% syringes

The study also found that 75% of accidental sticks in the OR occur when medical devices are in use or are passed from one hospital worker to another. Nurses and surgical technicians are the ones typically injured by devices originally used by surgeons and residents.

 

It’s time for hospitals to adopt preventive measures to protect all the members of surgical teams performing procedures in their operating rooms (OR), says California surgeon Ramon Berguer, MD, FACS.

That call for action follows a new study that shows the number of surgeons, residents, and nurses experiencing accidental injuries from sutures, scalpels, syringes, and other devices in the OR has actually increased by 6.5% since the introduction of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act in 2000. Berguer, chief of surgery at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez, CA, and a lead author of the study, says he is not surprised by the findings.

 



This is an excerpt from a member-only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe.

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