Medication Administration Subcutaneous

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Procedure Guidelines



Subcutaneous injection is the method used to administer drugs when a small amount of fluid is to be injected, the patient is unable to take the drug orally, or the drug is destroyed by intestinal secretions.


If the drug to be administered is harmful to superficial tissues, it should be administered intramuscularly or intravenously.


With the subcutaneous route, a small thin needle is inserted beneath the skin and the drug injected slowly. The drug moves from the small blood vessels into the bloodstream. Subcutaneous injections are usually given in the abdomen, upper arm, or the upper leg.


  • Prepare the syringe and needle. If a sterile, multiple-dose vial is used, the rubbercapped bottle should be rubbed with an antiseptic swab. The needle is then inserted through the center of the cap and some air from the syringe inserted to equalize the pressure in the container. Slightly more of the required amount of drug is then removed. Holding the syringe vertically at eye level, the syringe piston is pushed carefully to the exact measurement line.
  • If a small individual vial containing the correct amount of drug is used, the outside should be wiped with an antiseptic swab and held in the swab while the top is removed. The needle is then inserted into the vial, taking care that the tip of the needle does not scratch against the sides of the vial, thereby becoming blunt.
  • The injection site is then rubbed with a swab and disinfectant to cleanse the area and increase the blood supply. A small piece of skin and subcutaneous tissue is pinched between the thumb and forefinger, and the needle inserted quickly at a 45-degree angle.
  • It is important to ensure that the needle is not in a vein. Therefore the syringe should be aspirated a little by pulling back on the piston. The skin is then released and the syringe piston pushed down steadily and slowly.
  • A sterile cotton swab should be pressed over the injection site as the needle is quickly withdrawn, and the swab is taped to the skin for a few minutes, if required.

Krapp, G. & Cengage, G. Ed. (2002). Subcutaneous Injection. Encyclopedia of Nursing and Health. Retrieved April 14, 2009, from