BACKGROUND: Surgeons in training are at high risk for needlestick injuries. The reporting of such injuries is a critical step in initiating early prophylaxis or treatment. METHODS: We surveyed surgeons in training at 17 medical centers about previous needlestick injuries. Survey items inquired about whether the most recent injury was reported to an employee health service or involved a "high-risk" patient (i.e., one with a history of infection with human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B or hepatitis C, or injection-drug use); we also asked about the perceived cause of the injury and the surrounding circumstances. RESULTS: The overall response rate was 95%. Of 699 respondents, 582 (83%) had had a needlestick injury during training; the mean number of needlestick injuries during residency increased according to the postgraduate year (PGY): PGY-1, 1.5 injuries; PGY-2, 3.7; PGY-3, 4.1; PGY-4, 5.3; and PGY-5, 7.7. By their final year of training, 99% of residents had had a needlestick injury; for 53%, the injury had involved a high-risk patient. Of the most recent injuries, 297 of 578 (51%) were not reported to an employee health service, and 15 of 91 of those involving high-risk patients (16%) were not reported. Lack of time was the most common reason given for not reporting such injuries among 126 of 297 respondents (42%). If someone other than the respondent knew about an unreported injury, that person was most frequently the attending physician (51%) and least frequently a "significant other" (13%). CONCLUSIONS: Needlestick injuries are common among surgeons in training and are often not reported. Improved prevention and reporting strategies are needed to increase occupational safety for surgical providers.
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