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April 09, 2013
Surgeons at risk for sharp instrument injuries

Despite regulations to reduce injuries from needles and other sharp instruments, 400,000 of these occur each year. About 25 percent affect surgeons. According to an article in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, nearly all surgeons will experience a sharps injury sometime during their career. Residents and medical students are also at high risk—inexperience and fatigue are factors.

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The primary concern is the risk of acquiring a communicable disease like HIV or hepatitis B from a patient. Sharps injuries can also have a psychological impact on the injured employee and his or her family.

The economic impact is significant. Average costs for testing, follow-up, and preventive treatment range from $375 to nearly $2,500. The article quotes one study that found 70 percent of surgeons never or rarely report sharps injuries.

Most of these injuries are preventable. Engineered safety devices that reduce exposure to the needle are a solution, as are safe procedures for passing sharp instruments and practices like double gloving.

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