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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding Safe Practices for Medical Injections

Background

Injection safety, or safe injection practices, is a set of measures taken to perform injections in an optimally safe manner for patients, healthcare personnel, and others.

The Standard Precautions section of the 2007 Guideline for Isolation Precautions [PDF - 3.80] provides evidence-based recommendations for safe injection practices and reflects the minimum standards that healthcare personnel should follow to prevent transmission of infections in healthcare settings.

Despite these recommendations, outbreaks and patient notifications resulting from healthcare personnel failing to adhere to Standard Precautions and basic infection control practices continue to be reported.  Unsafe injection practices that have resulted in disease transmission have most commonly included:   

  • Using the same syringe to administer medication to more than one patient, even if the needle was changed or the injection was administered through an intervening length of intravenous (IV) tubing [1,2];
  • Accessing a medication vial or bag with a syringe that has already been used to administer medication to a patient, then reusing contents from that vial or bag for another patient [3-6];
  • Using medications packaged as single-dose or single-use for more than one patient [7-9];
  • Failing to use aseptic technique when preparing and administering injections [10-12].

For these reasons, CDC reminds healthcare personnel of the following practices that are critical for patient safety:

The following FAQs summarize inquiries received by CDC from healthcare personnel regarding safe use of needles, syringes, and injectable medications in patient care settings. Wherever possible we have attempted to provide examples of outbreaks or patient notification incidents that support the guidance offered in these FAQs. An extensive reference list is included at the end of this document.

These FAQs are not intended as a comprehensive resource for all safe injection practices and additional considerations may be necessary for certain clinical scenarios or settings. Healthcare personnel are encouraged to consult the Standard Precautions section of the 2007 Guideline for Isolation Precautions [PDF - 3.80] to ensure that their practices adhere to the basic principles of infection control and aseptic technique. Additional information applicable to specific clinical settings or procedures may be available from professional organizations.

A Note about Pharmacy Settings

While the use of aseptic technique when preparing and administering injectable medications is applicable to all healthcare settings, including pharmacy areas, these FAQs are not intended to reflect the standards and recommended practices for handling medication vials and related products in pharmacy settings—these should be determined in accordance with the state boards of pharmacy, the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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