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Needlestick injuries in house officers


Clinical bottom line

Most house staff would have at least one needlestick injury a year.


A McGeer et al. Epidemiology of needlestick injuries in house officers. Journal of Infectious diseases 1990 162: 961-964.


This was a survey conducted in 1989. All house staff were asked to complete an anonymous one-page questionnaire describing training and recording for as many past years as they could recall, details of percutaneous injuries involving blood contaminated objects. Respondents were categorised as surgical or medical. Injuries were categorised into those relating to operating rooms or wards.


Completion was 100% by 88 house staff (medical students, interns and residents). They recorded 159 ward-related injuries in 221 person years of exposure (0.7 per person per year), and 216 operating room injuries in 213 person years of exposure (1 per person per year).

Ward-related injuries were most frequent in medical students, and least frequent amongst third year residents.Operating theatre injuries were least frequent amongst medical students, and these injuries were almost always due to suture needles.

Ward-related injuries most often involved disposable needles (85%), most often occurring during phlebotomy (62%), and most often when recapping a needle (54%). Almost all (98%) were needlesticks.

Fewer han 5% of injuries were reported to occupational health services.


These rates and patterns of injury are common.