August 10, 2010
Wearing gloves reduces the risk of injury by needles and sharp medical devices, or sharps injuries, by about 66 percent, according to a new study by Canadian and U.S. researchers. Double-gloving brought the risk down further, by about 80 percent.
The study involved 636 health care workers from 13 medical centers in the United States or Canada who presented to employee health clinics after a sharps injury. Of the workers, 195 were scrubbed in an operating room or procedure suite when injured, and 441 were non-scrubbed and injured elsewhere. The latter were more likely to be gloved when treating patients who were perceived to have a high risk of HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
In case-crossover analyses, gloves reduced injury risk (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 0.33 [95 percent CI, 0.22-0.50]. Among scrubbed individuals, "involvement in an orthopedic procedure was associated with double-gloving at injury (adjusted odds ratio, 13.7 [95 percent CI, 4.55-41.3]); this gloving practice was associated with decreased injury risk (IRR, 0.20 [95 percent CI, 0.10-0.42])."
"Gloving actually reduces the likelihood that a needle will go through your skin and inoculate you with blood," said senior study author Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist and researcher with the University of Toronto and Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. In passing through the latex or vinyl membrane, some of the blood from the needle will be removed, reducing the inoculum or potentially infected blood, he explained.
Yet despite this, "There are kind of these weird beliefs about if you glove then you get clumsier and if you get clumsier, then you stick yourself," Fisman said.
The full report, "Use of Gloves and Reduction of Risk of Injury Caused by Needles or Sharp Medical Devices in Healthcare Workers: Results From a Case-Crossover Study," was published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology (2010;31:908-917).