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clarification regarding exposure after lab draw
Sep 5, 2001

I am sorry for any confusion in my previous question regarding a possible exposure after having blood taken at the dr's office. Hopefully this will clear things up. The gauze pad was placed on the arm board prior to the phlebotomist sticking me, she did this to have everything ready I would guess. So once she finished the stick she then picked up the gauze pad & placed it over the site. It was after she had put the gauze pad over this area that I realized there was red flecks on the arm board. This blood was not mine because I watched her do the lab stick & I would have noticed if blood splattered out. I hope this is more clear. I am just nervous because I think what if someone elses blood happened to be on this gauze pad & it was then placed over my lab stick site. This would be an open entry for infection right? My husband thinks I am being silly worrying over this, he said even if it was someone elses blood what are the chances that an hiv + person sat in the chair before me & their blood got into my system. Somehow this only makes me feel a little better about this incident although it makes sense. What are your thoughts. Somehow the phlebotomist at the dr's office does not seem very approachable & I would not feel comfortable questioning her regarding this incident. Also, wouldnt there be some sort of policy regarding cleaning the lab chairs between pt. use. Maybe it is only done on a daily basis. Thank you so much for responding. Asking someone else really helps put the mind at ease.

Response from Ms. Breuer

Thank you for your clarification. I understand the sequence better now. And you're smart to deal with your anxiety by learning more and asking questions.

Although I do not work in a medical setting, I'm guessing that an infection control specialist would flip a lid over dried blood flecks being left on the arm of a phlebotomist's chair. Sloppy. But dangerous to you,under the circumstances you described? No.

Here's the general story: HIV comes apart (becomes non-infectious) on contact with oxygen. In a spatter such as you describe, that would happen in a matter of seconds. (Why am I not giving you an exact number of seconds? Too many variables: air temperature, size of blood drop, etc. Please don't ask me for a number I can't invent.) The greater risk, theoretically, would be hepatitis B, which can be reactivated in dried blood by moisture. Assuming the phlebotomist used a dry gauze pad, which I think we can assume, she did not put you at risk in the scenario you describe. If she had a situation, however, where a person whose blood she was drawing spurted and mixed with other dried blood on the arm rest, putting a gauze pad down on that and then putting it on the person's arm could raise the risk of hep B. But that would be REALLY sloppy.

There is a person at your doctor's office who is responsible for infection control and should know about this: the doctor. Any blood left anywhere by a previous patient should be completely cleaned up before the next patient sits in the chair. That's basic infection control. Your doctor would not be pleased, I'll bet, to know that a practice going on in that office left another medical professional with such concern.

But you were not at risk for HIV in the scenario you describe.



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