Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Patients

What is injection safety?

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. A safe injection does not harm the recipient, does not expose the provider to any avoidable risks, and does not result in waste that is dangerous for the community. Injection safety includes practices intended to prevent transmission of infectious diseases between one patient and another, or between a patient and healthcare provider, and also to prevent harms such as needlestick injuries.

What are some of the incorrect practices that have resulted in transmission of disease?

Practices that have resulted in transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and/or hepatitis B virus (HBV) include the following:

  • Using the same syringe to administer medication to more than one patient, even if the needle was changed;
  • Using the same medication vial for more than one patient, and accessing the vial with a syringe that has already been used to administer medication to a patient;
  • Using a common bag of saline or other IV fluid for more than one patient, and accessing the bag with a syringe that has already been used to flush a patient’s catheter.
For what types of procedures have these incorrect practices been identified?

Unsafe injection practices that put patients at risk for HCV, HBV and other infections have been identified during various types of procedures. Examples include the following:

  • Administration of anesthetics for outpatient surgical, diagnostic and pain management procedures;
  • Administration of other IV medications for chemotherapy, cosmetic procedures, and alternative medicine therapies;
  • Use of saline to flush IV lines and catheters;
  • Administration of intramuscular (IM) vaccines.

The involved medications were in single-use vials, multi-dose vials, and bags. What they had in common was the vials or bags were used for more than one patient and were entered with a syringe that had already been used for a patient; or the syringe itself was used for more than one patient.

Can some of these incorrect practices also result in transmission of bacterial infections?

Yes. These incorrect practices put patients at risk for bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.

Do medication vials have a preservative in them to prevent contamination?

Most multi-dose medication vials that are intended for several medication administrations have a preservative in them to prevent bacterial growth. Single-use vials do not contain a preservative. The preservative has no effect on viruses. Safe injection practices and appropriate aseptic technique are necessary to prevent bacterial and viral contamination of medication vials that can result in patient infections.