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Treatment for a needlestick injury

  • August 7, 2012
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Needlestick injuries are, thankfully, on the decline as technology advances and health and safety awareness increases however if you are pricked by a discarded needlestick you still need to take the precautions to minimise the risk of infection from blood borne viruses (bbv) such as Hepatitis B and C and HIV.

This article is not meant to replace medical advice and you should always seek professional medical advice. In addition, if the accident happens at work you should ensure that the incident is recorded in the accident book.

Infection by Hepatitis B and C is far more likely than HIV.

The risk of infection from needlestick injury in this country are low with few recorded deaths however it does not remove the stress and discomfort caused to an injured party before test results give an all clear.

Certain features of a needlestick injury carry a particularly high risk:

  • Where the injured party suffers a deep injury
  • There is evidence that the source patient has a terminal HIV-related illness
  • Blood can be seen on the device which caused the injury
  • Injury with a needle which had been placed in a source patient’s artery or vein

What to do in the event of a needlestick injury

  • encourage bleeding, wash with soap and running water, do not scrub the area.
  • report incident and discuss with local public health consultant immediately
  • if there is a significant risk of HIV post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) should be started within the hour and in accordance with the local health authority protocol for such events.
  • a blood sample from the injured party should be sent for virology to check for the main BBV: HIV, hep. B and hep. C
  • consider need for antibiotic therapy or hepatitis B immunisation.
  • fill out accident book and complete critical event audit.

Claim for your needlestick injury.

Follow up treatment

Ensure adequate follow up of both injured party and source if known. The injured party will require early involvement by the Occupation Health service. They may need specific advice about having to take sick leave if medication is required, and the possible requirement for psychological support.

PEP (post exposure prophylaxis) is usually given where there is a high risk exposure to HIV and treatment should be started as soon as possible after the injury and within 72 hours at the most.  The treatment course is usually in the region of four weeks and possible side-effects include nauseas, diarrhea, dizziness and headaches.

As advised, this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice and this should be sought as soon as possible after the event

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