Precautions and Training Can Reduce Scalpel Injuries

Study suggests technological innovations reduce the need for traditional blades
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Although less common than needle-stick injuries, cuts from scalpels also put operating room personnel at risk and can be reduced by closely following safety precautions and taking advantage of new technology, according to a study in the December issue of the AORN Journal.

Joshua G. Vose, M.D., of PEAK Surgical Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., and Jeanne McAdara-Berkowitz, Ph.D., of Biolexica L.L.C. in Boulder, Colo., write that surgical assistants incur 36 percent of scalpel injuries, while nurses account for 27 percent, physicians 18 percent, and surgical technologists 9 percent.

Interventions to reduce scalpel injuries focus on training and risk awareness, while encouraging the use of safety scalpels has proven difficult due to resistance to change and complaints from surgeons about difficulty of use in surgery, the researchers note. A device using electro-surgical plasma induced with pulsed radio-frequency energy to cut tissue, developed by PEAK Surgical Inc., is an example of technological advances that may reduce the need for scalpels in future, they add.

"Given the risks of injury and exposure and the costs associated with the traditional scalpel, the introduction of safer alternatives is desirable," the authors write. "It is only feasible, however, if those alternatives offer surgeons functionality and handling equivalent or superior to the traditional surgical instruments they use now."

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