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Sharps injuries during dissection: a five-year retrospective study in the context of safety

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Jakub Foytl, Fraser Chisholm, Ourania Varsou

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The supplementation of lecture‐based anatomy teaching with laboratory sessions, involving dissection or anatomical specimens, is commonly used. Hands‐on dissection allows students to handle instruments correctly while actively exploring three‐dimensional anatomy. However, dissection carries a potential risk of sharps and splash injuries. The aim of this study was to quantify the frequency rate of such cases per 1,000 student‐hours of dissection and identify potential factors than might influence safety in anatomy laboratories. Data were retrospectively collected from September 2013 to June 2018 at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK. Overall, 35 sharps injuries were recorded in undergraduate medical students, with a frequency rate of 0.384 and no splash cases. A statistically significant, moderate negative association between year of study and frequency rate (rho(25) = −0.663; P < 0.001) was noted. A statistically significant difference in the frequency rate between different semester modules (χ2(4) = 13.577, P = 0.009) was observed with the difference being between Year 1 Semester 2 and Year 3 Semester 1 (P = 0.004). The decreasing trend with advancing year of study might be linked to increasing dissecting experience or the surface area of the region dissected. The following factors might have contributed to increased safety influencing frequency rates: single‐handed blade removal systems; mandatory personal protective equipment; and having only one student dissecting at a given time. The authors propose that safety familiarization alongside standardized training and safety measures, as part of an evidence‐based culture shift, will instill safety conscious behaviors and reduce injuries in anatomy laboratories.


Original languageEnglish
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
VolumeEarly View
Early online date10 Jun 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jun 2019

    Research areas

  • Gross anatomy education, Medical education, Undergraduate education, Cadaver dissection, Anatomy laboratory, Dissection room, Sharps injuries, Splash injuries, Training

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