A Call To Increase the Adoption of Safety Scalpels

November 29, 2016

By: Patrick Yi, CEO of MediPurpose

Sharps, which are defined as medical devices like needles, scalpels and other tools that cut or go into the skin, are tools used daily by medical personnel. The constant usage of these medical instruments makes sharp injuries prevalent in the healthcare industry. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 385,000 sharps-related injuries occur annually among hospital-based healthcare personnel, which amounts to approximately 1,000 sharps injuries per day. One of the best ways to battle these injuries is to call for the widespread adoption of safety scalpels.

Outpatient Surgery Magazine conducted a 124 participant reader survey in 2013 to determine how often safety scalpels are used in their facilities and how they would recommend putting them to routine use. The magazine stated that despite the protection safety scalpels offer against injuries, exposure and costly consequences, surgeons were still hesitant to use, and they wanted to know why. The survey revealed:

  • 63.4% of respondents have either experienced or witnessed a scalpel-related injury
  • 60.4% of respondents reveal that none or few of the scalpels purchased by their facility are safety scalpels
  • 52% of respondents say that safety scalpels are never or rarely used at their facilities


The survey also revealed that a hesitation existed around the adoption of safety scalpels because of a concern that the weight was different from what surgeons were accustomed to and the safety device blocked visibility during surgery. Respondents recommended that the best way to get surgeons to adopt safety scalpels was to provide hard data on injury reports, get backing from senior leadership and most importantly, have surgeons test the scalpel, getting them directly in surgeons’ hands.

This year, our team wants to learn how the industry’s viewpoints on safety scalpels have shifted, if at all, over the last three years. With this goal in mind, our team will be attending conferences across the world to ask end users and distributors a series of questions to gauge their knowledge surrounding safety scalpels and safety practices.

The first conference we attended was the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association’s (ASCA) annual meeting in Dallas, Texas in May 2016, where professionals attended over 60 educational and networking sessions to discuss industry trends and news. We distributed a survey throughout the conference to gain insight on this industry’s view towards safety scalpels. The survey, which polled 158 conference attendees including surgeons, surgical techs, directors, finance/purchasing personnel and administrative staff, revealed valuable insights as to how the medical industry reacts to safety scalpels. Highlights of the survey include:

  • 69% of respondents have witnessed a scalpel related injury
  • 61% of respondents stated that their facilities do not use safety scalpels


Reasons for not using a safety scalpel varied among users, including:

  • No acceptable model (50%)
  • Resists change (28%)
  • Slow adoption (17%)
  • No value, a safety scalpel is not needed (6%)


The key takeaway from this survey was that safety scalpels are not readily available to medical staff, with over 61% of respondents stating that their facilities do not have them on site. This figure shows that not much has changed since 2013 as a majority of the 2013 respondents revealed that none or few of the scalpels used in their facilities are safety scalpels. The lack of safety scalpels in facilities can put employees at risk for experiencing sharps injuries as well as contracting serious diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis from blood-borne pathogens that are transmitted through these injuries.

The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was signed into law in 2001 to reduce the occurrence of sharps injuries and exposure to blood-borne pathogens. The law requires employers to use work practice controls and safer needle devices that are engineered to eliminate or minimize exposure to blood-borne pathogens resulting from needlestick and sharps injuries.

Since the Act was enacted 15 years ago, many hospitals and medical facilities have complied with the standard by using a variety of safety products. However, the adoption of safety products in most places has not included safety scalpels, which we saw in both the 2013 Outpatient Surgery survey and the 2016 ASCA Survey. These surveys revealed that respondents are not satisfied with the current safety models on the market. Survey respondents cited issues with both weight and obstructed sight lines as reasons they do not currently use safety scalpels.

With the CDC citing that 62%-88% of sharps injuries can be prevented by simply using safer medical devices, it is of the utmost importance for medical facilities and hospitals to implement the proper safety procedures and require the use of safety tools. As such, it is our mission, with the creation of Anzen, to help reduce the number of sharps injuries by educating decision makers on the importance of adopting safety scalpels as well as to provide surgeons with the first safety scalpel encompassing all of the needed safety features without compromising the ease of use and feel they require.