Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Acute hepatitis B in patients in Britain related to previous operations and dental treatment.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986; 293 doi: (Published 05 July 1986) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986;293:33
  1. S Polakoff


    The frequency of transmission of hepatitis B virus infection from health service staff to patients was assessed from reports of confirmed cases of acute clinical hepatitis in 1980-3. During the four years 4505 reports (91% of the total) included replies to a question about recent operations; 153 patients (3.4%) had this history. Transfused blood or blood products were considered the source for 27 cases (0.06%). Eleven patients (0.02%) were infected in two clusters, both in cardiac surgery units; six were caused by a perfusion technician, who was a symptomless carrier, and five by a surgical registrar during the incubation period of an acute hepatitis B infection. The estimated average annual risk of a patient developing acute hepatitis B as part of a cluster caused by staff during surgical procedures was one in a million operations. For another 11 patients blood transfusion could not be excluded as a source. Where no association between surgery and hepatitis was found the incidence of a history, lay between 2.3 and 2.6%. The Hospital In-Patient Enquiry data showed that about 2.4% of the population had had operations in a six month period. These findings suggest that transmission of hepatitis B infection from staff to patients is rare in Britain and that the small risk could be eliminated by attention to measures to preserve asepsis and by immunising staff at risk.