Injected medicines are commonly used in healthcare settings for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of various illnesses.
Unsafe injection practices put patients and healthcare providers at risk of infectious and non-infectious adverse events and have been associated with a wide variety of procedures and settings. This harm is preventable.
Safe injection practices are part of Standard Precautions and are aimed at maintaining basic levels of patient safety and provider protections. As defined by the World Health Organization, 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.
Safe Injection Practices are a set of recommendations within Standard Precautions, which are the foundation for preventing transmission of infections during patient care in all healthcare settings including hospitals, long-term care facilities, ambulatory care, home care and hospice.
The most recent guideline outlining Standard Precautions is the Guideline for Isolation Precautions: Preventing Transmission of Infectious Agents in Healthcare Settings 2007.
Information for Providers
Recent investigations undertaken by state and local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified improper use of syringes, needles, and medication vials during routine healthcare procedures, such as administering injections. These practices have resulted in one or more of the following:
Transmission of bloodborne viruses, including hepatitis C virus to patients
Notification of thousands of patients of possible exposure to bloodborne pathogens and recommendation that they be tested for HCV, HBV, and HIV
Referral of providers to licensing boards for disciplinary action
Malpractice suits filed by patients
These unfortunate events serve as a reminder of the serious consequences of failure to maintain strict adherence to safe injection practices during patient care. Injection safety and other basic infection control practices are central to patient safety. All healthcare providers are urged to carefully review their infection control practices and the practices of all staff under their supervision.
In particular, providers should ensure that staff:
Never administer medications from the same syringe to more than one patient, even if the needle is changed
Do not enter a vial with a used syringe or needle
Hepatitis C virus, hepatitis B virus, and HIV can be spread from patient to patient when these simple precautions are not followed.
Additional protection is offered when medication vials can be dedicated to a single patient. It is important that:
Medications packaged as single-use vials never be used for more than one patient
Medications packaged as multi-use vials be assigned to a single patient whenever possible
Bags or bottles of intravenous solution not be used as a common source of supply for more than one patient
Absolute adherence to proper infection control practices be maintained during the preparation and administration of injected medications
To help raise awareness about the consequences of unsafe injection practices and to remind healthcare providers about the basics of injection safety, the Safe Injection Practices Coalition (SIPC) has created the posters, brochures and fact sheets for use in provider's offices, in patient rooms, and work areas.
View One & Only Campaign resources by media type:
Continuing Education Activity (CME/CNE/CEU)
Injection Safety & Recent Outbreaks - APIC North Carolina 2009. [PDF - 1.15 MB]
COCA Conference Call – A “Never” Event: Unsafe Injection Practices (March 27, 2008)
Injection Safety FAQs for Providers
One & Only Campaign
Rx for Safe Injections [PDF - 271 KB]
Rx for Safe Injections (Spanish version) [PDF - 3.71 MB]
It’s Elementary [PDF - 495 KB]
It’s Elementary (Spanish version) [PDF - 1.21 MB]
One & Only Campaign Logo
Providers [PDF - 121 KB]
Injection Safety: [PDF - 606 KB]
Download the complete 2007 Guideline for Isolation Precautions: Preventing Transmission of Infectious Agents in Healthcare Settings [PDF - 3.80 MB]
III.A.1.b. Safe Injection Practices The investigation of four large outbreaks of HBV and HCV among patients in ambulatory care facilities in the United States identified a need to define and reinforce safe injection practices 453. The four outbreaks occurred in a private medical practice, a pain clinic, an endoscopy clinic, and a hematology/oncology clinic. The primary breaches in infection control practice that contributed to these outbreaks were 1) reinsertion of used needles into a multiple-dose vial or solution container (e.g., saline bag) and 2) use of a single needle/syringe to administer intravenous medication to multiple patients. In one of these outbreaks, preparation of medications in the same workspace where used needle/syringes were dismantled also may have been a contributing factor. These and other outbreaks of viral hepatitis could have been prevented by adherence to basic principles of aseptic technique for the preparation and administration of parenteral medications 453, 454. These include the use of a sterile, single-use, disposable needle and syringe for each injection given and prevention of contamination of injection equipment and medication.
Whenever possible, use of single-dose vials is preferred over multiple-dose vials, especially when medications will be administered to multiple patients. Outbreaks related to unsafe injection practices indicate that some healthcare personnel are unaware of, do not understand, or do not adhere to basic principles of infection control and aseptic technique. A survey of US healthcare workers who provide medication through injection found that 1% to 3% reused the same needle and/or syringe on multiple patients 905. Among the deficiencies identified in recent outbreaks were a lack of oversight of personnel and failure to follow-up on reported breaches in infection control practices in ambulatory settings. Therefore, to ensure that all healthcare workers understand and adhere to recommended practices, principles of infection control and aseptic technique need to be reinforced in training programs and incorporated into institutional polices that are monitored for adherence 454.
III.A.1.c. Infection Control Practices for Special Lumbar Puncture Procedues In 2004, CDC investigated eight cases of post-myelography meningitis that either were reported to CDC or identified through a survey of the Emerging Infections Network of the Infectious Disease Society of America. Blood and/or cerebrospinal fluid of all eight cases yielded streptococcal species consistent with oropharyngeal flora and there were changes in the CSF indices and clinical status indicative of bacterial meningitis. Equipment and products used during these procedures (e.g., contrast media) were excluded as probable sources of contamination. Procedural details available for seven cases determined that antiseptic skin preparations and sterile gloves had been used. However, none of the clinicians wore a face mask, giving rise to the speculation that droplet transmission of oralpharyngeal flora was the most likely explanation for these infections. Bacterial meningitis following myelogram and other spinal procedures (e.g., lumbar puncture, spinal and epidural anesthesia, intrathecal chemotherapy) has been reported previously 906-915. As a result, the question of whether face masks should be worn to prevent droplet spread of oral flora during spinal procedures (e.g., myelogram, lumbar puncture, spinal anesthesia) has been debated 916, 917. Face masks are effective in limiting the dispersal of oropharyngeal droplets 918 and are recommended for the placement of central venous catheters 919. In October 2005, the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) reviewed the evidence and concluded that there is sufficient experience to warrant the additional protection of a face mask for the individual placing a catheter or injecting material into the spinal or epidural space.
IV.H. Safe injection practices The following recommendations apply to the use of needles, cannulas that replace needles, and, where applicable intravenous delivery systems
IV.H.1. Use aseptic technique to avoid contamination of sterile injection equipment 1002, 1003. Category IA
IV.H.2. Do not administer medications from a syringe to multiple patients, even if the needle or cannula on the syringe is changed. Needles, cannulae and syringes are sterile, single-use items; they should not be reused for another patient nor to access a medication or solution that might be used for a subsequent patient 453, 919, 1004, 1005. Category IA
IV.H.3. Use fluid infusion and administration sets (i.e., intravenous bags, tubing and connectors) for one patient only and dispose appropriately after use. Consider a syringe or needle/cannula contaminated once it has been used to enter or connect to a patient's intravenous infusion bag or administration set 453. Category IB
IV.H.4. Use single-dose vials for parenteral medications whenever possible 453. Category IA
IV.H.5. Do not administer medications from single-dose vials or ampules to multiple patients or combine leftover contents for later use 369 453, 1005. Category IA
IV.H.6. If multidose vials must be used, both the needle or cannula and syringe used to access the multidose vial must be sterile 453, 1002. Category IA
IV.H.7. Do not keep multidose vials in the immediate patient treatment area and store in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations; discard if sterility is compromised or questionable 453, 1003. Category IA
IV.H.8. Do not use bags or bottles of intravenous solution as a common source of supply for multiple patients 453, 1006.
IV.I. Infection control practices for special lumbar puncture procedures Wear a surgical mask when placing a catheter or injecting material into the spinal canal or subdural space (i.e., during myelograms, lumbar puncture and spinal or epidural anesthesia 906 907-909 910, 911 912-914, 918 1007. Category IB
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention