‘Non-surgical does not mean non-medical’ – the risk of HIV from cosmetic skin treatment investigated


Public Health England (PHE) is investigating the possible risk of blood-borne viruses being transmitted through needle micro-dermabrasion.

The probe comes after three members of staff working in beauty salons suffered needlestick injuries while carrying out the procedure.

The procedure treats fine lines, wrinkles, blackheads, pigmentation, acne and minor scarring.

Even though it is non-invasive and non-surgical form of skin resurfacing – or skin peeling – if needlestick injuries to staff or cross-contamination to clients occurs, PHE said there is a risk of transmission of blood-borne viruses including HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

PHE said: ‘All exposed individuals were using the same needle micro-dermabrasion device. Needlestick injuries occurred during the process of disassembling the device after use on clients. All three subsequently tested negative for blood-borne viruses.’

Now, they are working with the manufacturer to modify the design of the device to reduce the risk of cross-contamination and needlestick injury, as well as supporting the development of improved training and infection control guidance for those providing the treatment.

Currently, there are no regulations governing the use of needle microdermabrasion systems.

Consultant plastic surgeon Rajiv Grover, a former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, said: ‘Just because something is non-surgical it does not mean it is non-medical. The use of needles does at the very least some need medical supervision firstly to avoid treating patients who have contraindications from dermatological conditions or potential scarring conditions (keloid tendency).

‘Secondly complications can occur from needling (such as infections) and recognising and being able to treat these is essential. It is not good enough just to be able to handle a needle but essential to be able to handle the problems that may come from it, too.’

According to the regulations for healthcare workers a sharp device should never compromise patient care and anyone administering treatments should be able to maintain appropriate control over the procedure and other safety hazards or sources of blood exposure that use of the device may introduce.

There also needs to be a safety mechanism that’s integral to the device.
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