Prevalence and prevention of needlestick injuries among health care workers in a German university hospital

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2008 Jan;81(3):347-54. doi: 10.1007/s00420-007-0219-7. Epub 2007 Jul 10.


Objective: Health care workers (HCWs) are exposed to bloodborne pathogens, especially hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through job-related risk factors like needlestick, stab, scratch, cut, or other bloody injuries. Needlestick injuries can be prevented by safer devices.

Methods: The purpose of this study was to investigate the frequency and causes of needlestick injuries in a German university hospital. Data were obtained by an anonymous, self-reporting questionnaire. We calculated the share of reported needlestick injuries, which could have been prevented by using safety devices.

Results: 31.4% (n = 226) of participant HCWs had sustained at least one needlestick injury in the last 12 months. A wide variation in the number of reported needlestick injuries was evident across disciplines, ranging from 46.9% (n = 91/194) among medical staff in surgery and 18.7% (n = 53/283) among HCWs in pediatrics. Of all occupational groups, physicians have the highest risk to experience needlestick injuries (55.1%-n = 129/234). Evaluating the kind of activity under which the needlestick injury occurred, on average 34% (n = 191/561) of all needlestick injuries could have been avoided by the use of safety devices. Taking all medical disciplines and procedures into consideration, safety devices are available for 35.1% (n = 197/561) of needlestick injuries sustained. However, there was a significant difference across various medical disciplines in the share of needlestick injuries which might have been avoidable: Pediatrics (83.7%), gynecology (83.7%), anesthesia (59.3%), dermatology (33.3%), and surgery (11.9%). In our study, only 13.2% (n = 74/561) of needlestick injuries could have been prevented by organizational measures.

Conclusion: There is a high rate of needlestick injuries in the daily routine of a hospital. The rate of such injuries depends on the medical discipline. Implementation of safety devices will lead to an improvement in medical staff's health and safety.

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Borne Pathogens
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Health Personnel*
  • Hospitals, University*
  • Humans
  • Medicine
  • Needlestick Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Needlestick Injuries / etiology
  • Needlestick Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Protective Devices
  • Specialization
  • Surveys and Questionnaires