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The Proper Way to Administer Medication Via an Injection

Updated: May 8, 2022

When it comes to giving medications by injection, you might think there’s not much to it. After all, you’ve seen it done a hundred times before. Wrong. While most people give injections without giving it much thought, it’s an essential part of caring for patients. After all, medications given by injection are more effective and have fewer side effects than those provided by other means. To ensure that you give your injections as effectively as possible, you should follow the proper administration of medication via injection. The following paragraphs explain the different ways to provide injections and the pros and cons of each method.

What is the difference between injection and intramuscular (IM) injection?

Intramuscular injections are injections that go into the muscle beneath the skin. An injection into the skin itself is called subcutaneous or just subQ. Intramuscular injections are much less used today than they used to be, though they are still sometimes used, especially with pediatric patients. IM injections are also much more painful than subcutaneous injections are, with soreness and bruising at the site of injection.

The basics: How to give an injection

The essential part of any injection is how you prepare the medication. Once it’s in a vial and a syringe, there’s not much you can do to change it. There are many different ways to prepare medications for injection. The most important thing is to make sure the drug has been reconstituted. This means that all of the ingredients have dissolved properly. The most common failure is working in and around multi-dose vials and single-dose vials. The failure happens when staff treats the SDV as an MDV. The problem with this has to do with the septum. In MDVs, the septum has an antimicrobial layer that makes it safe to enter the same septum with needles in volume > 1, whereas SDVs do not. The other failure with staff is often failing to wipe the septum with 70% Alcohol or greater before inserting the needle. This is a deviation from the standard practice of medication administration.

Needles and syringes

The most basic way to inject anything is with needles and syringes. You can use a needle and syringe either with the attached needle or a hand attached to the syringe. Either way, you’ll need to follow the same preparation standards. The most important part is to make sure the medication has been reconstituted. Staff must also know the thickness of the medicine to assess whether or not the needle diameter is large enough in circumference before drawing up the drug. The perfect illustration of this is with testosterone medication. With testosterone being as thick as molasses, you try drawing up this in a standard 26G needle, and you will spend most of the day drawing up the first syringe full. A larger diameter needle is necessary to draw it up; then, you change out the needle to administer. Hint, you still need to use a larger diameter needle to help. Otherwise, it will take most of the day to give the medication.

Which needle to use?

There are many different types of needles to use for injections. However, no matter which style you use, it’s vital that you check the packaging for the correct needle size. Regardless of vial type, all medications should be given with a 27-gauge or 23-gauge needle. The 23-gauge needle is the most common type in a pharmacy, but a 27-gauge needle is sometimes used for huge vials. Some people believe the more significant the hand, the more pain the patient feels, but this is not true.

How to use the syringe

There are many different ways to use a syringe. The most common way is simply to draw the medication from the vial into the syringe. This technique is called “up-and-down” syringes. But there are other ways to use a syringe. For example, you can put the needle into the vial, put the medication into the barrel of the syringe, and then pull back the plunger to expel it into the barrel.

The pros and cons of each method

The advantages of subcutaneous injection include the following: - Subcutaneous injections are painless. The needle goes under the skin and into the muscle. - Subcutaneous injections are faster. They are usually done in seconds. - Subcutaneous injections are less expensive. They are often done as out-of-pocket expenses. - Subcutaneous injections have less risk of causing hemorrhaging. This is because no blood vessels are disrupted. One disadvantage is that subcutaneous injections are less effective. The medication is usually absorbed into the body more slowly.


The optimal method for giving injections depends on the person and the situation. Subcutaneous injection is more commonly used today, but both ways are effective. But subcutaneous injection is less painful and more comfortable than IM injection. So, if given a choice, most healthcare providers probably prefer subcutaneous injection.

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