Systematic Review of Blood-Borne Pathogen Exposure Rates Among Medical Students

J Surg Res. 2020 Nov;255:66-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2020.05.032. Epub 2020 Jun 14.


Background: Blood-borne pathogen exposures (BBPEs) pose a risk to health care workers (HCWs). Needlestick injuries (NSIs) have declined overall, but not for surgical HCWs. There are limited data regarding BBPEs among medical students (MSs) in their clinical years. We aimed to quantify this risk for third- and fourth-year MSs.

Methods: A literature review was conducted using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis guidelines. The PUBMED database was searched to identify studies of third- and fourth-year MSs using the terms BBPE, NSI, and MS. Studies of other HCWs were excluded if MS data were not extractable. Additional studies were identified from references. Descriptive analysis was performed.

Results: Seven of 171 articles published from 2002 to 2018 met study criteria. All used self-reported data from surveys/questionnaires. One-third of MSs reported BBPEs (n = 194/600, 32.3%) with a mean of 1 in 3.09 and a median of 1 in 3.53 (range: 1 in 1.9-8.3 students). Most events were NSIs (144/194, 74%) with a mean of 1 NSI per 4.05 MSs and median of 1 in 4.625 (range: 1 in 2.47-10.71). The remaining BBPEs reported included blood and bodily fluid splashes (n = 37, 19%), other mucocutaneous exposures (n = 7, 3.6%), and uncategorized injuries (n = 2, 1%).

Conclusions: One-third of senior MSs reported BBPEs during clinical rotations. Most BBPEs were NSIs. Quantifying this risk allows for anticipatory education and protocol development to protect students and other new HCWs. Educational efforts focused on NSI prevention before and during clinical rotations may help reduce BBPEs.

Keywords: Education; Mucocutaneous; Needlestick; Percutaneous; Surgery.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Borne Pathogens*
  • Body Fluids / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Needlestick Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Needlestick Injuries / microbiology
  • Needlestick Injuries / prevention & control
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Self Report / statistics & numerical data
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Universal Precautions