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Are You Afraid of Needles? (Maybe You Should Be)

syringe-1884784_640.jpgUnsafe injection practices place patients at unnecessary risk of acquiring infections and disease while under the care of physicians, nurses, and anesthesiologists. From 2001 to 2011, more than 150,000 patients were negatively affected by unsafe injection practices. It is a common problem across the United States with potentially deadly results.

Failure to Adhere to Basic Infection Control Procedures

Certain procedures carry a greater degree of risk for patients. These procedures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control include the administration of sedatives/anesthetics during surgical and diagnostic procedures. They include the administration of IV medication during chemotherapy, cosmetic procedures, and imaging sessions. Another common and dangerous procedure involves the introduction of an IV saline solution through lines or catheters that have not been properly sterilized. 

Dangerous habits on the part of healthcare professionals include using single-dose medications for more than one patient, failing to prepare or administer injections using aseptic techniques, and using the same syringe/needle/tube to administer medication to more than one patient.

Another common problem is improper disposal of dirty needles and other medical waste contaminated with pathogens. Improper disposal can increase the likelihood that patients will come into contact with these items and become infected with these pathogens. 

Consequences of Unsafe Injection Practices

Unsafe injection practices can lead to the spread of bacteria and viruses. Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is one of the deadliest as it is often antibiotic resistant and can cause severe infection in patients whose health is compromised by other illnesses.

Viruses such as Hepatitis C and HIV can be transmitted via dirty needles and cause lifelong health problems for patients. Infection with bacteria or viruses diminishes the patient's recovery prospects, the overall quality of life, and increases treatment costs. Moreover, if patients are not informed of the potential exposure during these "never events" and properly tested, those infected with bacteria and viruses can unknowingly infect loved ones and sexual partners. 

Outbreaks are Often Tied to Dirty Needles

When outbreaks of viruses or bacteriological infections occur, investigators often determine that dirty needles and unsafe injection practices are the cause. From 2001 through 2011, more than 49 outbreaks were tied directly to unsafe injection practices. Healthcare facilities, physicians, and nurses have a duty of care that includes protecting patients from such outbreaks. When outbreaks occur, these individuals and entities can be held liable for their negligent actions.  

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