Syringe safety

Clinical safety comes of age with the devising of a new equipment to dispose of all infected "sharps"

Published: Wednesday 15 November 1995

-- ALL over the world, thousands of hypodermic syringes are used daily in hospitals and then disposed of. But whether they are disposed of safely - given the risks of injury, and perhaps infection - it is not easy to tell. Needles which are often placed in a "sharps" box or bin, requires to be replaced every couple of days to prevent snowballing of contammation. Usually, the bins are removed for disposal by means of incineration.

To reduce this kind of needlestick injury, a us company, Healthcare Products Plus, has introduced the Needlyzer - an instrument about the size and shape of a shoe box - which eliminates needles immediately after use.

The top of the box has a hole through which the needles are pushed in, where they complete the circuit between two electrodes. They are then vaporised almost instantly as they heat up to a temperature of 1,500-c. A residue of oxides is only left as the high temperature destroys any kind of contamination.

vapours produced through filters in a disposable cartridge which also stores the oxidised needles. The manufacturers claim that only a harmless dust - easily disposable - is left over.

Stephen Schey, director, Clinical Racmatology at Guy's Hospital, London, says, "A fifth of needlestick injuries occur away from the place where the needle was used." He -asserts, "This would prevent accidents which are a serious problem. If you don't know where the needle has come from, it is very difficult to counsel the victim about the possible risks." And these could even include hepatitis or HIV patients.

A fan draws the A large hospital may well be able to spend a large sum by having a disposal contractor clean up their scraps. This would include disposal of scalpels and other sharp instruments, too.

But Schey says that the Needlyzer is a very simple piece of equipment. "I think it would be easy to identify sites where there would be cost benefits from introducing it", he maintains.

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