Accidental injuries and cutaneous contaminations during general surgical operations in a Nigerian teaching hospital

  • A.R.K. Adesunkanmi
  • T.A. Badmus
  • J.O.D. Ogunlusi


Objective: To determine the prevalence of accidental injuries and body contaminations among the operating personnel during general surgical operation, those involved, the circumstances surrounding the injuries or body contaminations and the factors affecting the prevalence in a unit of a teaching hospital in Nigeria.
Design: Patients operated for general surgical conditions in a unit of a Teaching Hospital Complex during a period of two years (1997-1998) were studied. A proforma was designed to enter personal biodata, preoperative and intra-postoperative clinical information of all the patients.
Setting: Wesley Guild Hospital a unit of teaching hospital complex serving the large agrarian rural and semi-urban Nigerians.
Patients: Five hundred and eighty nine consecutive general surgical patients. All types of general surgical operations were included, emergency or elective, major or minor, carried out during the day or at night.
Intervention: All the patients were operated and operating personnel observed for sharp injuries and body contamination.
Main outcome measures: Incidence of sharp injuries and cutaneous contamination and personnel at risk determined.
Results: Operating personnel sustained 62 sharp injuries (10.5%), these were caused by suture needle in 57 cases (92.0%), towel clips in three (4.8%), knife cut in two (3.2%). Operating physicians sustained 56 cases of sharp injuries (90.3%) and Scrub Nurses in six (9.7%). Self-inflicted sharp injuries in 49 (79%) and in 12 cases (21%) injuries were inflicted by the surgeons or their assistants. Left hand was injured in 39 cases (63%) and right in 23 (37%). Cutaneous or mucosa membrane contamination with blood or body fluid occurred in 232 cases (39.4%). These were made up of wet gown contamination in 124(53.5%), glove failure in 72(31%) and splashing of blood or fluids into the face or eyes in 36 cases (15.5%). Contamination occurred in more than one operating personnel in more than half of the cases. Operating surgeons were affected in 211 cases (91%). The risks of accidental injuries and blood and body fluid contamination were significant, if the duration of the operation was more than one hour, among the operating surgeons and if the operation was major (p<0.05).
Conclusion: This study has demonstrated that cutaneous, percutaneous, and mucous membrane exposure to patients blood and body fluids are common events during general surgical operations. Most accidental injuries were due to solid suture needle-sticks, mostly injured personnel were the primary operating surgeons, injuries occurred predominantly on the left hand. This may poses a significant risk of infection with blood borne pathogens when operating on infected patients.

(East African Medical Journal: 2003 80(5): 227-234)

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