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Risk of Sharp Device–Related Blood and Body Fluid Exposure in Operating Rooms

  • Douglas J. Myers (a1), Carol Epling (a1), John Dement (a1) and Debra Hunt (a1)

The risk of percutaneous blood and body fluid (BBF) exposures in operating rooms was analyzed with regard to various properties of surgical procedures.


Retrospective cohort study.


A single university hospital.


All surgical procedures performed during the period 2001–2002 (n = 60,583) were included in the analysis. Administrative data were linked to allow examination of 389 BBF exposures. Stratified exposure rates were calculated; Poisson regression was used to analyze risk factors. Risk of percutaneous BBF exposure was examined separately for events involving suture needles and events involving other device types.


Operating room personnel reported 6.4 BBF exposures per 1,000 surgical procedures (2.6 exposures per 1,000 surgical hours). Exposure rates increased with an increase in estimated blood loss (17.5 exposures per 1,000 procedures with 501–1,000 cc blood loss and 22.5 exposures per 1,000 procedures with >1,000 cc blood loss), increased number of personnel ever working in the surgical field (20.5 exposures per 1,000 procedures with 15 or more personnel ever in the field), and increased surgical procedure duration (13.7 exposures per 1,000 procedures that lasted 4–6 hours, 24.0 exposures per 1,000 procedures that lasted 6 hours or more). Associations were generally stronger for suture needle–related exposures.


Our results support the need for prevention programs that are targeted to mitigate the risks for BBF exposure posed by high blood loss during surgery (eg, use of blunt suture needles and a neutral zone for passing surgical equipment) and prolonged duration of surgery (eg, double gloving to defend against the risk of glove perforation associated with long surgery). Further investigation is needed to understand the risks posed by lengthy surgical procedures.

Corresponding author
Duke University Medical System, Dept. of Community and Family Medicine, 2200 W. Main St., Ste. 400, Durham, NC 27705 (
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Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology
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  • EISSN: 1559-6834
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