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Intravenous drug users and broken needles—a hidden risk?

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To determine the frequency with which intravenous drug users (IDUs) experience broken needles during their injecting careers. Design 

Cross-sectional survey. Participants 

Seventy intravenous drug users held in police custody in Bristol between May and September 2002. Measurements 

Self-reported history of experience of broken needles. Findings 

Fourteen (20%, 95% CI 11–29%) had experienced a needle breaking while injecting. The total number of broken needles was 23, of which 14 (61%) were recovered, four by surgical intervention, and the remainder as a result of direct action by the individual. Of the 23 broken needles, nine (39%) were reported to be fresh needles, whereas the remainder were being re-used. Conclusions 

IDUs may well experience, directly or indirectly, incidents involving broken needles during the course of their injecting careers. Given the potential for embolization and the risk of subsequent complications when this occurs, we recommend that harm minimization guidance should include advice about this potential hazard and the need for early action to retrieve broken needles.
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Keywords: Broken needles; intravenous drug users; needle embolization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Avon and Somerset Constabulary and 2: University of the West of England, Bristol, UK2

Publication date: 2003-08-01

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