What Should I Do If I Get a Needlestick?


While placing a central line, you sustain a needlestick. You’ve washed the area thoroughly with soap and water, but you are concerned about contracting a bloodborne pathogen. What is the risk of contracting such a pathogen, and what can be done to reduce this risk?


Needlestick injuries are a common occupational hazard in the hospital setting. According to the International Health Care Worker Safety Center (IHCWSC), approximately 295,000 hospital-based healthcare workers experience occupational percutaneous injuries annually. In 1991, Mangione et al surveyed internal-medicine house staff and found an annual incidence of 674 needlestick injuries per 1,000 participants.1 Other retrospective data estimate this risk to be as high as 839 per 1,000 healthcare workers annually.2 Evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2004 suggests that because these are only self-reported injuries, the annual incidence of such injuries is in fact much higher than the current estimates suggest.2,3,4

Nearly 300,000 U.S. healthcare workers experience occupational percutaneous injuries annually.

Nearly 300,000 U.S. healthcare workers experience occupational percutaneous injuries annually.

More than 20 bloodborne pathogens (see Table 1, right) might be transmitted from contaminated needles or sharps, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV). A quick and appropriate response to a needlestick injury can greatly decrease the risk of disease transmission following an occupational exposure to potentially infectious materials.

Review of the Data

After any needlestick injury, an affected healthcare worker should wash the area with soap and water immediately. There is no contraindication to using antiseptic solutions, but there is also no evidence to suggest that this reduces the rates of disease transmission.

As decisions for post-exposure prophylaxis often need to be made within hours, a healthcare worker should seek care in the facility areas responsible for managing occupational exposures. Healthcare providers should always be encouraged and supported to report all sharps-related injuries to such departments.

The source patient should be identified and evaluated for potentially transmissible diseases, including HIV, HBV, and HCV. If indicated, the source patient should then undergo appropriate serological testing, and any indicated antiviral prophylaxis should be initiated (see Table 2, p. 19).

KEY Points

  • Occupational needlestick injuries are under-reported.
  • Although rare, transmission of disease from a percutaneous injury might lead to life-threatening illness.
  • Post-exposure antiviral prophylaxis exists for HIV and HBV, while post-exposure management for HCV centers around identification and treatment of chronic disease.
  • Rates of disease transmission are significantly reduced with timely and appropriate post-exposure antiviral prophylaxis.

Additional Reading

  • Overview: Risks and Prevention of Sharps Injuries in Healthcare Personnel. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Atlanta: 2004.
  • Davenport A, Myers F. How to protect yourself after body fluid exposure. Nursing. 2009;39(5):22-28.
  • Gabriel J. Reducing needlestick and sharps injuries among healthcare workers. Nurs Stand. 2009;23(22):41-44.

Nearly 300,000 U.S. healthcare workers experience occupational percutaneous injuries annually.

Risk of Seroconversion

For all bloodborne pathogens, a needlestick injury carries a greater risk for transmission than other occupational exposures (e.g. mucous membrane exposure). If a needlestick injury occurs in the setting of an infected patient source, the risk of disease transmission varies for HIV, HBV, and HCV (see Table 3, p. 19). In general, risk for seroconversion is increased with a deep injury, an injury with a device visibly contaminated with the source patient’s blood, or an injury involving a needle placed in the source patient’s artery or vein.3,5,6


  1. Linda Nelson says

    The brief reference on page 1 reflects that the FDA has approved a needle to prevent needlsticks. Aftere going throuhg 20 + pages – I was not able to find any additional information.

  2. Ade says

    Somebody help me cut my nails with general scissors that is use for different people mistakely cut me with a little blood outside.

  3. vinod says

    Res sir today I got needle prick 24 no after iv injection m scared abt hiv infection I hav enquired tat pt he had unprotected sex wit prostitut 1 month back n today he came my clinic h/o of fever cold n loose stools by mistakly I got prick after injecting after few seconds so shud I do now can I go P24 Antigen test r consult any doctor pl reply me urgently pl m so scared sir

  4. Joy Zelaya says

    got a needle prick very lightly and did not have blood ffrom my poke. The person definaely has HEP C and I am extremely worried. please call me rather than an e-mail. Thank-you Joy Zelaya 239-645-0146

  5. may says

    24 hours ago I attended my patient who is hep B reactive I extracted blood from her and I accidentally pricked my index finger bec of a defective syringe. I injected myself with hep b vaccine and immune globulin but I haven’t completed the full dose due to the reason of unavailability of the vaccine and is very much costly. My question is I only got 10Iu I’m supposed to have at least 1000iu is it okay if I inject the remaining amount per day basis within 7days? Thanks

  6. says

    i am a staff nurse &i got needle prick from jaundice patient.already i took HBsag vaccin 8 year back .is their any problem or i have to take vaccine again???????

    • sara says

      I got needle stick injury frm obstructed jaundice patient. But patient is nt having hiv, hbsag, hcv. Its negative. All LFT is elevated.. can u tel me wht to do

  7. dr-kirlos says

    I’m a dentist and I’ve just a scratch on my finger with a needle from a Hcv patient
    This scratch didn’t ooze blood
    Is it risky??

  8. Stacey Wathan says

    Good Day Everyone…

    Am so happy that am now free from hepatitis B virus, I real went to hell when suffering form this disease, please anyone there still going through this disease should contact this HEALTH MED LAB for medication immediately they cure me just under 7 days. Their email is healthmedlab@gmail.com

    • Melanie Taylor says

      Me too my patient is in final stages of aids. Hospital has issued all kinds of meds. But I’m scared and about to be married in 2 months. Please help melanietay01@gmail. Com

  9. shashank neupane says

    i am a medical laboratory technician,,,, i meet a patient who has been pricked by a needle of HIV infected family member during giving insulin in home. he came to me after 4 month and asked for HIV screening and found negative,i suggested him to follow again after 3 month for screening, then also negative………… after a 9-10 month he called me and ask again to screen HIV on him , then also negative,,, so in my opinion risk of transmission of HIV is negligible.

  10. Usman says

    I pricked myself with a patient during a major operation. I quickly squeezed the blood out under running water, reported to the hospital authority and commenced post exposure prophylaxis on same day even though the patient is negative. But because of fear of being in window period, I commenced the PEP. Do I need the PEP despite the fact that the patient is negative ( patient might be in windows period) because am seriously considering stopping the medication because the drug has terrible side effect for me. Is there any consequences for me in terms of drug resistance if I stopped taking the drug. Am into the 3rd day of my medication.
    Thank you in anticipation of your prompt response.

  11. sheila morgan says

    Just what I was looking for. Unfortunately, I found this article too late – I already found the answer on another service. I’ve forgotten the last time I filled out a form on paper. I mostly use PDFfiller to edit. You can easily fill a form here https://goo.gl/fg5IY0.

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