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Review Addresses Need for 'Sharps' Injury Prevention Efforts

Fatigue, inexperience play critical role; health and cost impact can be significant

TUESDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Injuries caused by needles and other sharp instruments are a major occupational hazard for health care providers, particularly surgeons, with significant health risks and cost impact, and there is a need for enhanced preventive efforts, according to a special article published in the April issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Jennifer F. Waljee, M.D., from the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, and colleagues reviewed the scope of sharps injuries among surgeons, potential strategies for prevention, and health care policy designed to protect surgeons.

The researchers found that surgeons are at greatest risk of incurring a sharps injury of all health care providers, with about one-quarter of all needlestick injuries occurring in the operating room, and 59 percent occurring among surgeons. The probability of seroconversion varies based on the type of exposure, volume and concentration of inoculum, and health and immunogenicity of the health care worker. Fatigue and inexperience play critical roles in needlestick injuries, although the causes vary widely. The cost attributed to a single injury ranges from $71 to $4,838, and includes reporting procedures, laboratory testing, follow-up, and post-exposure prophylaxis. Most sharps injuries are preventable, and effective prevention strategies include engineered safety devices and sharps-handling guidelines. Since 1987, control measures have been in place, and these safety guidelines have subsequently been modified to protect health care workers. Employees should review safety precautions annually.

"Although most surgeons are aware of the potential risks of occupational exposure, they are often not informed of current safety practices, advances in technology, and recent guidelines designed to protect clinicians from the infectious risk of sharps injuries," the authors write.

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