ZocdocAnswersShould I see a physician for post-exposure prophylaxis?

Question

Should I see a physician for post-exposure prophylaxis?

Hey, I have a question about HIV PEP. Today I was assisting in a medical case with an HIV positive patient. During the case, I was very lightly poked with a sharp retractor (I think it may have been a Senn retractor). Here are the facts: the patient's viral load is undetectable, the poke was light, I examined the glove and there didn't appear to be any holes but I guess I can't know for sure. Should I see a physician for post-exposure prophylaxis?

Answer

I am sorry to hear about your work exposure. This is a complicated issue with multiple variables at play. In order to make an accurate recommendation, it will be important for a physician to review your entire medical history as well as further details about the exposure and the patient with whom you were working. As a result, I recommend you schedule an appointment either with the occupational health office at your workplace or an infectious disease specialist. After compiling this information, the doctor can make a recommendation regarding the need for post exposure prophylaxis. The HIV virus, which often leads to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, is transmitted through bodily fluids, such as blood and semen. During medical procedure, in which practitioners come into contact with patients' blood, there is a great deal of concern for HIV transmission. This often occurs when a sharp object, such as a needle or scalpal, nicks the practitioner. In your case, it is difficult to say whether your exposure warrants post exposure prophylaxis. Pokes by hollow-core needles increase risk of transmission compared to other sharp objects. The patient's viral load may affect the need for prophylaxis as well as whether he is co-infected with a virus such as hepatitis C. I encourage you to raise these questions with an infectious disease specialist.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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