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Study: Blood exposures risky with IV catheters

For nurses, working with IV catheters poses a significant risk for blood exposures, yet most incidents go unreported.

A study, by the International Healthcare Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia [1], finds that half of nurses experience blood exposures on skin, mucous membranes, or eyes at least once a month when inserting a peripheral IV catheter.

Healthcare workers place more than 300 million short peripheral intravenous catheters every year in the United States, and the study reports that nurses are at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens in 128 of 100,000 IV catheter insertions, compared to the more commonly recognized risk of exposure from needlestick injury with non-safety catheters at 6.6 per 100,000 devices.

Furthermore, the majority of IV catheter insertion exposures go unreported. Of the total mucous membrane exposures sustained by respondents in this study, 69% were not reported. In comparison, the CDC’s underreporting rate for sharps injuries is 57%.

Almost nine in 10 of those nurses who did not report the incident said they did not think the exposure was significant enough to report; more than one third said they were too busy, and 9% said they were concerned about others’ perceptions.

Janine Jagger, PhD, MPH, lead author of the study and director of the International Healthcare Workers Safety Center, says she was surprised by not only the frequency of blood exposure during both insertion and removal of IV catheters, but that the risk of exposure was about equal during both insertion and removal.

The study, “Blood exposure risk during peripheral I.V. catheter insertion and removal,” appeared in Nursing 2001 and is available for viewing on the BD website [2].