Scalpel injuries in the operating theatre
International evidence based guidelines are needed to standardise approaches to reducing risk, say Amber M Watt and colleagues
Despite recognition of the need to reduce injuries from sharp instruments in healthcare settings, the focus has been more on reducing needlestick injuries than on other causes of injury, such as those caused by scalpel blades in operating theatres.
The operating theatre is a unique environment in which many healthcare professionals work in close proximity, often over long periods, and often under emergency conditions. This environment increases the chances of healthcare workers sustaining serious injuries from scalpel blades.
Scalpel injuries represent a multi-faceted risk as they cause mechanical injury and expose both the injured worker and the patient to the risk of contracting blood borne infection. The sequelae of scalpel injuries are time consuming, emotionally fraught, and potentially expensive for the people and institutions involved.
Data on the number of percutaneous injuries sustained by healthcare workers as a result of scalpels are scarce. A quarter of all percutaneous injuries are