Student Cuts Himself with Scalpel When Sectioning Human Tissue

What Happened?

A student sustained a laceration to his index finger when cutting human tissue with a scalpel blade. The student had planned to collect tissue slices from previously frozen spinal cord tissue for homogenization. The laceration occurred when the student tried to remove the blade from the tissue while holding onto the sample with his fingers. The blade had become stuck and came out unexpectedly fast cutting the student’s finger. The student immediately notified his supervisor and was sent to Occupational Health and Safety for treatment. 

What Was The Cause?

The student held the tissue sample with his fingers rather than with forceps. The student was also relatively inexperienced in the procedure and used a scalpel blade that was not attached to a handle.

What Corrective Actions Were Taken?

  • The student received training to perform the the procedure correctly

How Can Incidents Like This Be Prevented?

  • Use forecps to hold samples in place; never use your fingers.
  • Never use a scalpel blade without a handle
  • Consider using a dermal punch instead of a scalpel
  • Be aware of body mechanics when performing cutting/slicing tasks
  • Cut away from hand/body
  • Dispose of all sharps in a biohazard sharps container



Minimize exposure to biohazards:

  1. Expose the wound
  2. Express the wound
  3. Flush the wound under running water for 5 min
  4. Cover the wound and seek medical attention
  5. Report the incident to your supervisor


Biohazard Sharps

  • Sharp blades as found in microtomes, cryostats and scalpels cause the majority of severe lacerations in UCLA research labs.
  • Sharp blades are often used to cut tissues infected with risk group 2 and 3 agents; cuts result in potential exposure!