EXPOSURE SAFETY: Pass with care in the OR

February 2005 
Volume 35  Number 2
Pages 70 - 70
  PDF Version Available!


  • Why not use safer devices?

  • Using a zone defense

  • Sharp tips for handling sharps


  • Source

    SURGICAL PERSONNEL have unique injury patterns and need specific strategies tailored to the OR to reduce sharps injuries and potential blood exposures. An additional challenge for nurses is the fact that although nurses are more likely than surgeons to be injured, surgeons choose which devices to use. Nurses must speak up and call for safer devices and procedures whenever they are available.

    To learn about injuries nurses sustain in surgical settings, let's first look at data from the Exposure Prevention Information Network (EPINet) from 1993 to 2001 detailing 1,731 injuries in 57 hospitals.

    * Twenty-nine percent of injuries occurred between steps of a procedure; for example, while passing devices.

    * Another 29% of injuries occurred after devices were used but before their disposal. These injuries include those incurred while disassembling devices.

    * Suture needles caused 34% of injuries to OR nurses; scalpels caused 19% of injuries.

    * Double-gloving isn't foolproof protection from sharps injuries: 28% of injured nurses were wearing double gloves; 64% were wearing a single pair.

    Why not use safer devices?

    An analysis of the most recent year of EPINet data (2002) shows that injuries to OR nurses from reusable scalpels are declining (from 14% in 1998 to 4% in 2002). This may reflect wider use of safety alternatives to reusable scalpels (including disposable scalpels or scalpels with protective sheaths) or better cutting methods.

    While scalpel injuries have gone down, the proportion of injuries from suture needles has increased. The use of sharp-tip suture needles has remained relatively stable, despite the availability of a safer alternative, blunt-tip suture ...

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