Suture Needle Warning: Pathogen Risk Reduced with Blunt Tips

Federal health experts are urging health care professionals to make more extensive use of blunt-tip suture needles in some operations to avoid the risk of sticking themselves accidentally and exposing themselves to pathogens. 

On May 30 the FDA issued a joint safety communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicating that health care workers should increase use blunt-tip needles when suturing fascia and muscle. The blunted tips are less likely to break skin and infect health care workers with diseases and bloodborne pathogens, officials say.

According to the FDA, there are about 384,000 needlestick injuries in U.S. hospitals each year, exposing health care workers to bloodborne viruses like Hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV. A full 23 percent of those needlestick injuries occur in surgical settings, and while needlestick injuries have been on the decline in other health care fields, that has not been the case with surgical workers.

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At least one report found that more than half of needlestick injuries were linked to suture needles being used to suture fascia or muscle.

The communication points out that the use of blunt-tip suture needles reduces the risk of needlestick injuries by about 69%.

On average, the blunt-tip needles cost about 70 cent more than standard suture needles, but the agencies say that the benefits and savings in health care costs for infected health care workers is worth it.

Needlestick injury management can cost from $376 to $2,456 for each incident, not including treatment if the worker does become infected.


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