Living with Arthritis

Learn How to Inject: Subcutaneous Injections with a Pre-Filled Syringe

Its easy for patients and caregivers to learn how to perform a subcutaneous, or under-the-skin injection with a pre-filled syringe.

This type of injection is also called a subq injection, pronounced “sub Q” (“sub cue”).

Dr. Thompson, a rheumatologist, will demonstrate an injection in the following video using a syringe that has been pre-filled with medicine. This lesson is applicable a variety of medications used in rheumatology.

If your medication comes in a syringe that you need to fill on your own, you might be interested in:

Subcutaneous Injections

A subcutaneous injection involves poking a small needle just under the skin to deliver medicine into the “fatty tissue” below.

This type of injection does not deliver medicine straight into the blood. It is absorbed by the small blood vessels under the skin. This is similar to how medication is absorbed when you take a pill or tablet: small blood vessels in the stomach or bowel absorb the medication.

Parts of a syringe

Each syringe might look a little different but they are all the basically the same. They have 4 basic parts:

  1. A needle cap (which is removed)
  2. A needle
  3. A barrel which contains the medicine
  4. And a plunger.

Video Lesson

Step-by-Step: How to Inject

There are four basic steps to performing a subcutaneous injection with a pre-filled syringe:

Step 1: Gather your Supplies

We’ve prepared a special “injection placemat” that you can download and print to help make sure that you’ve got all of the necessary supplies:

Place your “injection mat” on a clean table or surface.

Gather your supplies:

  1. Your pre-filled syringe. If it has been in the refrigerator it’s a good idea to let it warm up for 30 minutes. If you’re not sure, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
  2. A clean gauze or tissue
  3. A puncture proof “Sharps Container” to dispose of the used syringe

If you’re missing any of the required supplies, talk to your local pharmacist.

Step 2: Choose an injection site

It’s important to start by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

A subcutaneous injection can be given into the thigh, the abdomen, or the upper arm. It’s best to choose a different site for each injection at least a few centimetres (an inch) away from a previous injection.

You can easily inject into your abdomen or thighs on your own, but you’ll probably need help from another person if you want to inject into your upper arms.

It’s a good idea to rotate your injection sites. For example, if you had to take weekly injections, this week you might place the injection in your thigh, and next week to your abdomen. If someone else is performing the injection on you, you can also use your upper arms.

If you’re injecting into your abdomen stay away from the 2 inches around your belly button.

Don’t inject into an area that is tender, bruised, red, hard, or one that has scars or stretch marks.

Step 3: Inject the medicine

  1. Remove the needle cap from the syringe. Don’t touch the needle or allow it to touch anything else.
  2. Pinch a fold of skin at the injection site.
  3. Gently insert the needle into the fold at a 45-degree angle under the skin.
  4. Release the skin and slowly inject the medicine. When the syringe is empty remove the needle.
  5. Apply pressure with a cotton gauze or tissue for about 10 seconds.

It’s normal to see a tiny drop of blood.

Step 4: Dispose of the syringe

It’s important to dispose of used sharp syringes in a proper container, often called a Sharps Container. These containers can be found at your local pharmacy.

Don’t ever put the needle cap back on a needle as you or someone else may accidentally poke themselves with it. Simply take the used needle and place it in the Sharps Container.

Store your Sharps Container in a safe place out of reach of small children. When the container is 2/3 full, tape the lid closed and discard of it as instructed by your local pharmacist.

Giving a small injection under the skin is really that easy. If you have any questions or concerns please talk to your doctor or your nurse.