Dear Ask The Doctor: About 2-3 weeks back I visited a doctor's office to get a physical and a TB test (requirements for school). However, after the doctor gave me the shot for the TB test, I notice that he did not throw away the needle but set it carefully on the counter where my arm rested. When I saw this it seemed odd to me but at the time I wasn't sure why. As I'm getting up to leave I notice the doctor wasn't even wearing gloves. So as I'm getting up to leave my mind is now going into overdrive as replay the whole consultation in my head. Then the realization hit;I didn't even see him unwrap the syringe in front of me. All I saw was him taking it out of a silver stainless steel drawer on the side on the examining bed where I lay. Don't get me wrong the needle did look clean in appearance and the examination room also looked pretty spotless, but it didn't look like the plastic ones you would just throw away. To me it look like the syringe might have been made of glass. Through the whole examination I had trouble understading what he was saying because he had a thick vietnamese accent so I was already a little confuse to begin with.So I left out of that place immediately. The reason I went to him in the first place was because he didn't require insurance and had fairly low price. He also dosen't accept any insurance except for medicaid. I also know a few other people who have gone to his office and said he was a nice man, one of whom is my mother who also speaks very little english. I even looked him up online after this happen and he is indeed a license physician with an up to date license. My concern is could there be a chance that I might have contracted a disease or a virus from the needle he use. What are the chances of this actually happening? What should I do for myself now? Should I report him to the Health Department? Should I call him and ask him about his hygienic methods? Should I go get tested for HIV/Hepatitis right away? My mind has been restless since this happen and its starting to wear on my sanity. I would really appreciate your advice.
Dear Nehemie: I suspect there is more self created anxiety as opposed to actual cause of concern.
I am familiar with TB needles and they are very fine needles that are only good a few skin pokes. After that, they become dull and unusable.
Secondly, the cost of such needles is in the range of 10 cents per needle so I doubt there would be an incentive to save them or reuse them.
Thirdly, a licenced state physician would unlikely risk his privilege to practice over a 10 cents needle.
Lastly, needles are not meant to be disposed in the garbage but require special containers for transport and disposal. Likely, the doctor was setting aside the needle so he could place it in a sharps container for disposal.
If you are still concerned, please speak with the doctor to alleviate your concerns. If this does not reassure you, you could always see another doctor to be tested for blood born diseases. If there are any suspicions of poor medical practice, please call the state licensing board. they will be able to direct your further.