Needle Safety

Suturing wounds is an inherently risky treatment. The use of a sharp needle to suture is often unavoidable and, unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers sustain needlestick injuries annually 1 (accidentally puncturing their skin), when stitching, assisting or clearing up. Needlestick exposes carers to infection from blood born viruses (BBV) 2, and to the difficult decision of whether or not to take post exposure prophylactic drugs (PEP). The problem is increasing not decreasing 3. Alternative devices such as glues and blunt needles have been developed, but their adoption is poor and, in most circumstances, they cannot replace the traditional sharp needle and suture thread.

Needlestick injury is such a problem that powerful legislation has been enacted to protect carers by their obliging employers to use safety-engineered devices, or sharps with engineered sharps injury protection (SESIPs).

Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act
Directive 2010/32/EU – prevention from sharp injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector
UK HSE (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulation 2013

Until now it has not been possible to make traditional suture needles needle-safe, hence the continuing occurrence of needlestick when suturing. The design of the Sutrue devices is inherently needle-safe, the needle being held in a protective cartridge. During suturing the sharp tip is only exposed as it passes through the tissue to be sutured. The used needle is safely contained within the cartridge for disposal.

Professional bodies such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) have been pressing industry for solutions to needlestick injury asking, “Manufacturers to partner with surgeons and surgeon groups to develop suture designs that both reduce risk and are comfortable and intuitive for surgeons to use….” 4 By using Sutrue devices healthcare employers will now be able to meet their legal obligations whilst allowing practitioners to use the sharp needles they prefer.

References:
1 There are 35 million healthcare workers worldwide of which over 380,000 per year report a needle stick injury through suturing. It is believed that a significant proportion of needlestick injuries are not even reported. With 40% of Hepatitis and 2.5% of HIV in healthcare workers contracted through needlestick. (Preventing Needlestick injuries among Healthcare Workers: A WHO-ICN Collaboration. VOL 10/NO 4, OCT/DEC 2004. www.ijoeh.com).
2 Sharps Injuries among Hospital Workers in Massachusetts, 2010 Findings from the Massachusetts Sharps Injury Surveillance System, Deval L. et al
3 Eye of the Needle 2014, Key Messages UK surveillance of significant occupational exposure to bloodborne viruses in healthcare workers, Public Health England, December 2014
4 International Safety Center

Further reading on needle safety and legislation to protect the carer:

NHS Resolution Preventing Needlestick Injuries Leaflet
Telegraph
Repertoire Magazine
International Safety Center
HSE
NHS Employers
Nursing World
European Biosafety Network
NHS Confed
FACS
OSHA
ISIPS