Background: Surgeons in training are at high risk for needlestick injuries. The reporting of such injuries is a critical step in initiating early prophylaxis or treatment.
Methods: We surveyed surgeons in training at 17 medical centers about previous needlestick injuries. Survey items inquired about whether the most recent injury was reported to an employee health service or involved a "high-risk" patient (i.e., one with a history of infection with human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B or hepatitis C, or injection-drug use); we also asked about the perceived cause of the injury and the surrounding circumstances.
Results: The overall response rate was 95%. Of 699 respondents, 582 (83%) had had a needlestick injury during training; the mean number of needlestick injuries during residency increased according to the postgraduate year (PGY): PGY-1, 1.5 injuries; PGY-2, 3.7; PGY-3, 4.1; PGY-4, 5.3; and PGY-5, 7.7. By their final year of training, 99% of residents had had a needlestick injury; for 53%, the injury had involved a high-risk patient. Of the most recent injuries, 297 of 578 (51%) were not reported to an employee health service, and 15 of 91 of those involving high-risk patients (16%) were not reported. Lack of time was the most common reason given for not reporting such injuries among 126 of 297 respondents (42%). If someone other than the respondent knew about an unreported injury, that person was most frequently the attending physician (51%) and least frequently a "significant other" (13%).
Conclusions: Needlestick injuries are common among surgeons in training and are often not reported. Improved prevention and reporting strategies are needed to increase occupational safety for surgical providers.
Copyright 2007 Massachusetts Medical Society.