Needlesticks and Infections: Still Not Enough Information

Researchers review the trials of “safety-engineered” syringes and their chances of preventing blood-borne infections among health care workers administering injections.


“Safety-engineered” syringes were designed to help reduce sharps-related injuries by preventing the injury (eg, with self-retractable needles, internal blunt needles, or external shielding) or by preventing reuse (eg, a metal clip blocks the plunger once the injection has been given). But do these syringes prevent injuries and infections?

Researchers from the American University of Beirut and Lebanese University both in Beirut, Lebanon and researchers from the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland aimed to find out by reviewing randomized and nonrandomized trials of health care workers delivering intramuscular, subcutaneous, or intradermal injectable medications. The study outcomes found HIV, HBV, and HCV infections as well as other blood-borne infections, abscesses, or needlestick injuries among health care workers.

Related: Hospital-Acquired Infections on the Decline

The researchers concluded that there is moderate-quality evidence that injury-prevention syringes reduce the incidence of needlestick injuries in health care workers. However, the researchers did not find studies that met their eligibility criteria for data on infections or the effect of reuse on infections. That pointed to another issue; the lack of studies evaluating the effects of the safety devices on anything other than needlesticks, “whether benefits or harms.”

Related:The Immunization Community

Out of 6,566 identified citations the researchers judged, only 9 were eligible for their review. Given the paucity of information on the effectiveness of reuse prevention syringes, the researchers suggest that health care managers consider mainly using settings with high rates of syringe reuse and high prevalence of blood-borne pathogens.

Harb AC, Tarabay R, Diab B, Ballout RA, Khamassi S, Akl EA. BMC Nursing. 2015;14:71.

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