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Ann Surg. 2006 Aug;244(2):305-9.

Inadequate hepatitis B vaccination and post-exposure evaluation among transplant surgeons: prevalence, correlates, and implications.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6021, USA.



To identify the proportion of U.S. transplant surgeons who are adequately vaccinated against hepatitis B virus (HBV), identify characteristics associated with inadequate vaccination, and assess the proportion who had been evaluated for immunization following potential HBV exposures.


It is unknown what proportion of transplant surgeons are appropriately vaccinated against HBV or evaluated for immunization following operative exposures.


We mailed questionnaires and to all active U.S. transplant surgeons. We compared demographic characteristics of responders and nonresponders to evaluate the potential for nonresponse bias.


Of 619 eligible respondents, 347 (56.1%) returned completed questionnaires. Of the 311 surgeons for whom HBV vaccination was indicated (all surgeons with neither a prior history of HBV infection nor a prior adverse reaction to the vaccine itself), 70 (22.5%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 18.0-27.6%) received fewer than the recommended 3 injections. Surgeon characteristics associated with inadequate vaccination included length of clinical practice (odds ratio [OR], 1.5 per 10-year increment in duration of practice; 95% CI, 1.1-2.2), increased fear of infection (OR, 1.2 for each unit increase in fear out of 10; 95% CI, 1.1-1.4), and lack of recent testing for HBV infection (OR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.1-3.8). Of the 94 surgeons (27.3%) reporting at least one needle-stick exposure while operating on an HBV-infected patient, 14 (14.9%) were inadequately vaccinated; of these 14, only 5 (35.7%) sought appropriate serologic testing and counseling for active immunization. Surgeons underestimated both the risks of percutaneous exposure while operating, and of becoming infected with HBV if exposed.


Many transplant surgeons are inadequately vaccinated against HBV and fail to seek evaluation following possible exposures. Underestimation of the risks of HBV exposure and transmission may relate to these failures. Requiring documentation of HBV vaccination and immunity to maintain operating room privileges may protect surgeons, their patients, and operating room staff.

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