Recently published studies show that using blunt-tip
suture needles reduces the risk of needlestick injuries
from suture needles by 69 percent. Although blunt-tip suture needles cost approximately 70 cents more
than their standard suture needle counterparts, the
benefits of reducing the risk of serious and potentially
fatal blood-borne infections for health care personnel
support their use when clinically appropriate.
A 2007 report suggests that the slight difference in
costs of blunt- and sharp-tip suture needles is balanced
by the economic savings associated with needlestick
injury prevention. This report, which assessed the
costs of managing occupational exposures to blood
and body fluids, concluded that the cost of managing
a needlestick injury can range from $376 to $2,456
per reported incident. In addition, personnel who
receive needlestick injuries may experience anxiety
and a loss of productivity as they await the results
of blood tests.
The use of blunt-tip suture needles does not
require the surgeon to change their work practices.
In fact, a new generation of blunt-tip suture needles
is now on the market with a slightly more tapered tip
profile that may provide for easier suturing compared
with the earlier needles used in the referenced studies.
The College recognizes that specific procedures may
preclude the use of blunt-tip suture needles.
Therefore the ACS recommends:
• The universal adoption of blunt-tip suture needles for
the closure of fascia and muscle in order to reduce
needlestick injuries in surgeons and OR personnel.
The neutral zone
The hands-free technique (HFT) requires the surgical
team to designate a sharps neutral zone (for example,
a towel, Mayo stand, magnetic pad) for the pickup and
release of surgical sharps such as needle-holders, scalpels, and syringes with needles. With this technique,
there is no direct handing of instruments from scrub
person to surgeon and back. If the surgeon must not
break eye contact with the surgical field during critical
parts of the operation where patient safety or workflow
might be compromised, a partial HFT may be used
whereby sharps are directly handed from the scrub
person to the surgeon but then returned to the scrub
person via a neutral zone.
The use of the neutral zone to transfer sharps is
supported by the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration and the Association of periOperative
Registered Nurses as a method to reduce health care
workers’ risk of sharps injury during surgery. The data
supporting the use of HFT are inconclusive at present, with one large study reporting lower needlestick
rates more than 75 percent of the time when the HFT
technique was used, and another, smaller randomized
• Food and Drug Administration,
National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health,
and Occupational Safety and
Health Administration Joint
Safety Communication. Blunt-
Tip Surgical Suture Needles
Reduce Needlestick Injuries
and the Risk of Subsequent
Transmission to Surgical
Personnel, May 30, 2012. www.
• International Sharps Injury
Prevention Society: Education,
information and product
knowledge to help reduce
the number of sharps
• International Healthcare Worker
Safety Center EPInet—Exposure
• The Joint Commission Sentinel
Alert. Preventing needlestick and
sharps injuries. August 2001.
• Davis MS. Advanced Precautions
for Today’s O.R. In: The
Operating Room Professional’s
Handbook for the Prevention
of Sharps Injuries and
Bloodborne Pathogen Exposures.
Atlanta, GA: Sweinbinder
Publications LLC; 2001.
• Training for the Development
of Innovative Control
Technologies Project (TDICT)