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To study the epidemiology and preventability of blood contact with skin and mucous membranes during surgical procedures.
Observers present at 1,382 surgical procedures recorded information about the procedure, the personnel present, and the contacts that occurred.
Four US teaching hospitals during 1990.
Operating room personnel in five surgical specialties.
Main Outcome Measures:
Numbers and circumstances of contact between the patient's blood (or other infective fluids) and surgical personnel's mucous membranes (mucous membrane contacts) or skin (skin contacts, excluding percutaneous injuries).
A total of 1,069 skin (including 620 hand, 258 body, and 172 face) and 32 mucous membrane (all affecting eyes) contacts were observed. Surgeons sustained most contacts (19% had ≥1 skin contact and 0.5% had ≥1 mucous membrane-eye contact). Hand contacts were 72% lower among surgeons who double gloved, and face contacts were prevented reliably by face shields. Mucous membrane-eye contacts were significantly less frequent in surgeons wearing eyeglasses and were absent in surgeons wearing goggles or face shields. Among surgeons, risk factors for skin contact depended on the area of contact: hand contacts were associated most closely with procedure duration (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 9.4; ≥4 versus <1 hour); body contacts (arms, legs, and torso) with estimated blood losses (adjusted OR, 8.4; ≥1,000 versus <100 mL); and face contacts, with orthopedic service (adjusted OR, 7.5 compared with general surgery).
Skin and mucous membrane contacts are preventable by appropriate barrier precautions, yet occur commonly during surgery. Surgeons who perform procedures similar to those included in this study should strongly consider double gloving, changing gloves routinely during surgery, or both.
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