To assess the rate of needlestick injury in hospital personnel in an Italian region. To identify risk factors potentially amenable to correction.
Hospital workers undergoing hepatitis B prevaccination testing in 1985 through 1986 were interviewed regarding needlestick injury in the previous year, job category, area of work, years of employment, and other pertinent information.
Of the 98 public hospitals of the Latium region, 68 participated in the survey: 32 of 55 with less than 200 beds, 20 of 25 with 200 to 300 beds, 11 of 13 with 400 to 900 beds, and all of the 5 with more than 1,000 beds.
All healthcare workers providing direct patient care or environmental services as well as student nurses were invited by the hospital directors to undergo hepatitis B prevaccination testing and vaccination, if eligible.
Of 30,226 hospital workers of the 68 participating hospitals, 20,055 were interviewed (66.3%): 47.7% of the 7,172 doctors, 71% of the 14,157 nurses, 55.9% of the 2,513 technicians, and 71.9% of the 6,384 ancillary workers. Needlestick injury was recalled by 29.3%; the rates were 54.9%, 35.3%, 33.8%, 26.5%, 18.7%, and 14.7% in surgeons, registered and unskilled nurses, physicians, ancillary workers, and technicians, respectively. The recalled injury rate was 39.7% and 34.0% in surgical and intensive care areas; in infectious diseases, it was 16.7%. Bates were lower in hospitals with 200 to 300 beds (25.6%). The needlestick injury rate declined from 32% in those with less than 5 years of employment to 28% in those with more than 20 years (p<.01). Prevalence of HBV infection was higher in student nurses and young workers recalling a needlestick exposure (14.3% and 15.8%, respectively), versus 10.1% and 12.8% in those not exposed (p<.01 and <.05, respectively).
Parenteral exposure to bloodborne infectious agents is a relevant risk among healthcare workers in our region, particularly in defined job categories and hospital areas (surgeons, nurses, surgical, and intensive care areas). Immunization and educational efforts should be made along with better designs of devices to reduce the risk of infection.