Professionals Should Get Sharp About Choosing the Right Syringe for Their Patients

From the Spring Research Guide

| Apr 1, 2006

For diabetes patients who inject insulin through a syringe, the people at Becton-Dickinson (BD) say that they should always know exactly which brand, dose capacity and needle size to use and why.

“Some physicians leave the choice of the syringe to the patient and pharmacist,” says BD, adding that its arsenal of insulin syringes come in 17 different sizes and types to meet a wide variety of patient needs. “If [the patient] is not actively involved in the choice of an insulin syringe, and the pharmacist does not know the details of [the patient’s] insulin regimen, [the patient] may not get the syringe that is best … every time.

According to BD, when patients change their syringe, it can affect their diabetes control. BD emphasizes that changes should be made only after discussion between the patient and his or her healthcare professional.

“Patients need to participate in selecting their syringe and should insist on getting that same syringe every time a prescription is refilled,” says BD.

Selecting a Syringe

BD insulin syringes are available in sizes that hold up to 30 units, 50 units or 100 units of insulin.

“Since it’s easier to read the scale markings on smaller syringes, you should always choose the smallest syringe that will hold your dose,” says BD. The manufacturer offers a choice of two different dose scales for people using 30-unit syringes; one is marked in 1-unit increments for easy reading, and the other is marked in half-units for those making very small dose adjustments.

BD syringes are available in two different needle lengths: 1/2" (12.7 mm) and 5/16" (8 mm).

“Most people find the short-needle syringe to be the most comfortable, while others prefer the half-inch needle. Whichever you choose, a change of needle length should always be discussed first with your doctor.”

The thickness of a needle is called the gauge. The thinner the needle, the higher the gauge number. The BD half-inch syringe needles are 30 gauge, and the short needles are 31 gauge. No brand has thinner insulin syringe needles than BD.

For more information on BD insulin syringes and other products, go to

Why Use a Syringe?

Before looking at tips for selecting a syringe, let’s review why syringes remain the most popular choice for taking insulin. There are several ways to take insulin other than with a syringe, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the benefits of using insulin syringes:

  • Syringes can be used with all types of insulin, from rapid acting to long acting to premixes, and they can also be used to take a combination of short- and intermediate-acting insulin in one injection.
  • Syringes are widely available; virtually every pharmacy in the United States stocks them.
  • You can accurately measure your exact dosage every time, whether you inject very large or very small doses. You can even make adjustments as small as a half-unit if you are trying to achieve tight control.
  • Syringes are small and easy to carry if you need to take insulin away from home.
  • You can be confident that you received your entire dose when you see the empty syringe after injecting.
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Categories: Diabetes, Diabetes, Insulin, Professional Issues, Syringes

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