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What are the Different Types of Syringe Needles?

By Lucinda Reynolds
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Syringe needles come in various sizes meant to perform a variety of functions. Which type of syringes are used during a procedure usually depends upon the medication that is being administered. At times, the size of the patient will decide what type of needle is used.

Needle diameters are determined by gauge size. As the diameter of the needle gets smaller, the gauge number gets bigger. For instance, a 24-gauge needle would be much thinner than a 14-gauge needle. When an injection is given, it is usually administered with the thinnest needle possible to avoid discomfort.

The length of syringe needles is important when giving injections. The type of injection needed will determine the gauge and length of the needle that is used. There are two main types of injections. One is the intramuscular injection and the other is the subcutaneous injection.

An intramuscular injection is given deep into a muscle. Vaccines are commonly intramuscular injections. These types of injections will usually require longer and slightly thicker needles. Common sizes for an intramuscular injection would be a 20- or 22-gauge needle that is one inch (2.54cm) to one-and-a-half inches (3.81cm) long.

Subcutaneous injections require injecting medication into the first layer of fat that lies just beneath the skin. Insulin shots are one example of injections that are given subcutaneously with a special insulin syringe. Needles used for subcutaneous injections are thinner and shorter. Common sizes for a subcutaneous injection are 25- or 30-gauge needle that is a half-inch (1.3 cm) to five-eighths inches (1.6 cm) long.

There are other types of syringe needles that are used to give medications. If an individual requires intravenous medications, he will probably have an intravenous needle inserted into a vein and then the needle will be attached to an intravenous line that leads to a bag of fluids. Medications can be pushed through small rubber ports that protrude from the intravenous line.

In most health care settings, safety measures are put into place to reduce the risk of needle sticks. A needleless syringe is usually used to administered medications through an intravenous port. This type of syringe has a tip that screws onto the rubber port, causing it to open so the medication can be injected.

Safety syringes are commonly used syringe needles in almost all health care settings these days. These types of syringes have a safety mechanism that covers the needle once the injection is given. These safety syringes decrease the risk of the health care worker or the patient getting stuck with an infected needle.

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Discussion Comments

By JaneAir — On May 13, 2012

I have a few friends who work in hospitals, and when their supply department needs to buy syringes and needles, they buy safety syringes. One of my friends told me that incidents of healthcare workers sticking themselves with needles went way down after the hospital starting purchasing the safety syringes.

From what I gather, they cost a bit more than regular syringe needles, but it sounds like they're well worth it in the long run.

By starrynight — On May 12, 2012

@SZapper - I know exactly what you mean about some needles being comically large. Sometimes those needles are so thick you can't believe a doctor is going to stick that into one of your muscles!

Anyway, I just wanted to say that there are other types of syringes besides syringe needles. There are syringes that are just used to administer liquid medication, and I think these are just called plain syringes. They look just like the syringe part of a syringe needle, but instead of having a needle, they have a plunger for drawing liquid into the syringe and then administering the liquid by mouth.

By SZapper — On May 11, 2012

I used to give my cat insulin injections for his diabetes, which are giving in the skin, as the article said. I remember the BD syringe needles I used for his injections didn't look very threatening. The needle was fairly thin, and not very long. Also, the cat didn't seem too bothered by the injections, so I assume they didn't hurt much.

On the other hand, some of the needles I've been exposed to in doctors' offices over the years are much bigger and more threatening. The last time I got a tetanus shot, I remember the needle the doctor used looked almost comically large.

By kylee07drg — On May 11, 2012

I had to have an IV when I was in the hospital with rotovirus as a child. I had a catheter inserted into my arm to deliver the fluids that were trying to exit my body rapidly through both vomit and diarrhea.

There was a syringe without a needle attached to the IV line further up. This was so the nurse could inject me with medication without having to disrupt the flow of the fluids to my body, which I so desperately needed. They also had to deliver potassium through the IV, since I was losing so much of it.

They had to medicate me with an injection to stop the vomiting and diarrhea. I believe that this was what they injected into the syringe in the tubing. It worked rather quickly.

By StarJo — On May 10, 2012

@Perdido – I think a fear of needles is pretty common, but I don't really understand it. I get a flu vaccine every year, and I'm not bothered by the needle and syringe at all, but it would make some people cower in the corner and beg for mercy!

Of course, a flu shot uses a relatively small syringe needle. Perhaps a longer, wider needle would make me uneasy.

The flu shot has never hurt while I'm receiving it, but it usually does cause soreness at the injection site later. Still, it's not enough to make me fearful of syringe needles.

By Perdido — On May 10, 2012

I have a friend who is terrified of syringes and needles. She received a very painful steroid shot as a child, so she associates both syringes and needles with extreme pain.

I believe that the shot that scarred her was in her rear. She had been very sick, and the nurse had told her that this shot would make her feel so much better. She also told her that she would feel a little sting.

My friend told me that the shot felt like getting stung by several wasps at once. The syringe was pretty big, since the shot was going into the muscle. However, it traumatized her so much that she is even afraid of the smaller needles used for skin injections.

By seag47 — On May 09, 2012

I am participating in a clinical trial for a new drug to treat kidney disease, and I have to have blood drawn every three months. The nurse at the research center uses a syringe with a needle that is attached to a long tube for this.

The syringe looks a lot like the kind that go in the arms of patients about to receive intravenous medication. There is a needle attached to a piece of rubber that lays against my skin as the blood drains down the tube and into the glass vials at the end.

The nurse takes six vials of blood, but it's amazing how fast the process goes. I imagine that the needle is the perfect size for making this happen as quickly as possible without damaging my vein.

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