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February 23, 1990

The Incidence of Exposure to Needle Sticks During Surgery

JAMA. 1990;263(8):1068-1069. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440080040016

To the Editor.—  The continuing debate in regard to the magnitude of risks to health care workers involved in treating patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome frequently generates dogmatic opinions unsupported by fact. Drs Ratzan and Schneiderman1 say the following:No needle-stick data support the suggestion that any physician anywhere is likely to stick oneself 5 to 10 times per year. This is not only an unverifiable assumption in the literature, it is a priori preposterous. Such a physician belongs in a different, safer profession, where the practitioners use their feet, not their hands.In an ongoing prospective study of glove use and surgical team injuries during heart surgery using cardiopulmonary bypass, we have noted a mean of about 0.4 exposures of surgeons, scrub nurses, or other team members per operation. Exposures are defined as (1) needle, wire, or bone punctures of gloves with visible bleeding, scratch, or laceration