Needlestick injuries among resident physicians

J Gen Intern Med. 1990 Sep-Oct;5(5):389-93. doi: 10.1007/BF02599422.


Objective: To assess the frequency and causes of needlestick injuries in medical and surgical housestaff.

Design: A retrospective survey.

Setting: Urban university teaching hospital.

Participants: 386 housestaff; 221 responded.

Intervention: Survey questionnaire.

Main results: 1) Frequency of needlestick: Of 221 respondents, 57 (26%) reported never having had a needlestick, while 164 (74%) reported at least one needlestick injury with a suture or hollow-bore needle. The average frequencies were 0.63 per resident-year among 149 non-surgical residents and 3.8 per resident-year among 72 surgical residents. Among residents in internal medicine, 12 of 78 needlestick injuries (15%) sustained were from patients documented to be HIV-positive. 2) Causes of needlestick: The causes of injury were assessed in detail in a sample of the 157 most recent needlestick injuries. Suturing was the cause in 35 of 61 (57%) surgical residents, while recapping needles was the cause in 36 of 96 (38%) non-surgical residents. Inexperience was not the cause of injury; in 94% of cases the residents felt comfortable performing the procedure, and in 74% of cases the residents had performed the procedure more than 50 times before. 3) Reporting of injury: Only 30 (19%) of 157 injuries were reported to the personnel health service, thus compromising documentation for potential workmen's compensation.

Conclusions: Needlestick injuries are common among medical and surgical housestaff. Efforts should be made to prevent needlestick injuries and to report those that occur.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Accidents, Occupational / statistics & numerical data*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / transmission*
  • Connecticut / epidemiology
  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Needles*
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Retrospective Studies