Needlestick, Sharp Injuries on the Rise in the OR

<"">Injuries related to needlesticks and sharps have risen in the operating room (OR) following national legislation meant to reduce these dangers, according to research, said MedPageToday.

As we have mentioned in the past, the ECRI Institute, it its annual list of top ten hospital medical device hazards, found that among other dangerous medical device hazards, its 2008 list included needlesticks and other sharps injuries. The issue is that intravenous and other device administration can cause injuries to clinicians, patients, laboratory personnel, pharmacy staff, housekeeping personnel, and waste handlers by an exposed needle or other sharp. Consequences include serious cuts and exposure to blood borne pathogens such as HIV or the hepatitis B or C virus.

The ECRI is nonprofit organization that “researches the best approaches to improving patient care” and is a designated Collaborating Center of the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as an Evidence-based Practice by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Updated annually, the list is based on problems reported to and investigated by ECRI and includes detailed descriptions and information on how to avoid such hazards.

Now, MedPageToday writes that following passage of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000, hospitals’ injury rates dropped 31.6 percent in nonsurgical areas. An increase, however, was seen of 6.5 percent in surgical locales, according to Elayne Kornblatt Phillips, RN, MPH, PhD, of the University of Virginia International Healthcare Safety Center in Charlottesville, Virginia and colleagues.

The team’s analysis of “percutaneous injury surveillance data” involved 87 “diverse” U.S. hospitals in 11 states and covered the years from 1993 through 2006, said MedPageToday. The results found that suture needles were the prime surgical offender and that the majority of injuries took place when these items were being used or being passed, explained MedPageToday.

The research found that, based on these results, surgical teams have not been responsive to the mandates for occupational safety, regardless of the high injury and blood exposure risks, said MedPageToday. The findings were reported in the April issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Of note, the law requires that healthcare workers provide specific safety-engineered needles and sharps, which are meant to reduce risk, noted MedPageToday.

According to MedPageToday, those working in surgical fields tend to be change-averse, which, coupled with poor safety designs for these surgical devices, could be leading to the increase in injuries in surgical venues.

Use of blunt suture needles in specific cases and hands-free handover of sharps—placing them on a table and not passing them to a person—could reduce injury, said the team, wrote MedPageToday.

Injuries tended to occur among technicians, such as attendants and assistants; OR nurses; and residents. Surgeons experienced the least incidence of injury, said MedPageToday.

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