How should a needlestick or cut be treated during a high-risk autopsy?

Updated: May 20, 2019
  • Author: Jeffrey S Nine, MD; Chief Editor: Kim A Collins, MD, FCAP  more...
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Should a needlestick or scalpel cut involving exposure to blood or body fluid(s) occur, the injured person should stop dissecting immediately, allow the wound to bleed freely, wash the wound with soap and water, and then apply disinfectant to the wound. HIV is inactivated by a wide range of disinfectants, including iodophor compounds (such as Betadine), 60% ethanol, 3% hydrogen peroxide, phenolic compounds (such as Lysol), formaldehyde solution (formalin), and sodium hypochlorite (household bleach, Clorox) in a freshly prepared 1:10 dilution in water (final concentration, 0.5%).

Rules and policies are limited in their ability to prevent harm and require mindfulness by those who are supposed to follow them to be effective. Furthermore, situations outside the scope of rules and policies often arise. Thus, perhaps the most important safety measure a prosector can take for preventing transmission of infection at autopsy is to have a safety-first mindset.

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