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Injection (medicine)

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Injection (medicine)

An injection (often referred to as a "shot" in US English, or a "jab" in UK English) is an infusion method of putting fluid into the body, usually with a syringe and a hollow needle which is pierced through the skin to a sufficient depth for the material to be administered into the body. An injection follows a parenteral route of administration; that is, administration via a route other than through the digestive tract. Since the process inherently involves a small puncture wound to the body (with varying degrees of pain depending on injection type and location, medication type, needle gauge and the skill of the individual administering the injection), fear of needles is a common phobia.


There are several methods of injection or infusion used in humans, including intradermal, subcutaneous, intramuscular, intravenous, intraosseous, intraperitoneal, intrathecal, epidural, intracardiac, intraarticular, intracavernous, and intravitreal. Rodents used for research are often administered intracerebral, intracerebroventricular, or intraportal injections as well. Long-acting forms of subcutaneous/intramuscular injections are available for various drugs, and are called depot injections.

Injections are among the most common health care procedures, with at least 16 billion administered in developing and transitional countries each year. 95% of injections are administered in curative care, 3% are for immunization, and the rest for other purposes, such as blood transfusions. In some instances the term injection is used synonymously with inoculation even by different workers in the same hospital. This should not cause confusion; the focus is on what is being injected/inoculated, not the terminology of the procedure.

Intramuscular injection

In an intramuscular injection, the medication is delivered directly into a muscle. Many vaccines are administered intramuscularly, as are codeine, metoclopramide, and many other medications. Many drugs injected intramuscularly are absorbed into the muscle fairly quickly, while others are more gradual. Injections to the buttocks are known to reach the bloodstream quickly due to the large amount of muscular tissue and corresponding blood supply.

Generally, intramuscular injections are administered by a trained medical professional; however, prescribed self-administered intramuscular injections are becoming more common for patients who require these injections routinely.

Depot injection

A depot injection is an injection, usually subcutaneous, intradermal, or intramuscular, that deposits a drug in a localized mass, called a depot, from which it is gradually absorbed by surrounding tissue. Such injection allows the active compound to be released in a consistent way over a long period. Depot injections are usually either solid or oil-based. Depot injections may be available as certain forms of a drug, such as decanoate salts or esters. Examples of depot injections include Depo Provera and haloperidol decanoate. Prostate cancer patients receiving hormone therapy usually get depot injections as a treatment or therapy. Zoladex is an example of a medication delivered by depot for prostate cancer treatment or therapy. Naltrexone may be administered in a monthly depot injection to control opiod abuse; in this case, the depot injection improves compliance by replacing daily pill administration.

The advantages of using a long-acting depot injection include increased medication compliance due to reduction in the frequency of dosing, as well as more consistent serum concentrations. A significant disadvantage is that the drug is not immediately reversible, since it is slowly released.

In psychiatric nursing, a short acting depot, zuclopenthixol acetate (Clopixol Acuphase), which lasts in the system from 24 – 72 hours, is now more regularly used for rapid tranquillisation.


The pharmaceutical injection type of infiltration involves loading a volume of tissue with the drug, filling the interstitial space. Local anesthetics are often infiltrated into the dermis and hypodermis.

Hypodermic injections in nature

Various animals, and some plants, have been injecting for various reasons long before humans began doing so in a process commonly called stinging. Some examples include:

  • Snakes, wasps, scorpions: venom, to kill prey and self-defense.
  • Some bees: venom, to defend themselves and their nests.
  • Cnidaria (jellyfish, etc.): venom, to kill prey.
  • Stinging nettles: venom, to try to avoid being eaten.
  • Stingrays: venom, defense mechanism when provoked.
  • Injection pain

    The pain of an injection may be lessened by prior application of ice or topical anesthetic, or simultaneous pinching of the skin. Recent studies suggest that forced coughing during an injection stimulates a transient rise in blood pressure which inhibits the perception of pain. Sometimes, as with an amniocentesis, a local anesthetic is given. The most common technique to reduce the pain of an injection is simply to distract the patient.

    Babies can be distracted by giving them a small amount of sweet liquid, such as sugar solution, during the injection, which reduces crying.

    Injection safety

    40% of injections worldwide are administered with unsterilized, reused syringes and needles, and in some countries this proportion is 70%, exposing millions of people to infections.

    Another risk is poor collection and disposal of dirty injection equipment, which exposes healthcare workers and the community to the risk of needle stick injuries. In some countries, unsafe disposal can lead to re-sale of used equipment on the black market. Many countries have legislation or policies that mandate that healthcare professionals use a safety syringe (safety engineered needle) or alternative methods of administering medicines whenever possible.

    Open burning of syringes, which is considered unsafe by the World Health Organization, is reported by half of the non-industrialized countries.

    According to one study, unsafe injections cause an estimated 1.3 million early deaths each year.

    To improve injection safety, the WHO recommends:

    1. Changing the behavior of health care workers and patients
    2. Ensuring the availability of equipment and supplies
    3. Managing waste safely and appropriately

    A needle tract infection is an infection that occurs when pathogenic micro-organisms are seeded into the tissues of the body during an injection. Such infections are also referred to as needlestick infections.



    Injection (medicine) Wikipedia