Drugs and syringe drivers: a survey of adult specialist palliative care practice in the United Kingdom and Eire

Palliat Med. 2001 Mar;15(2):149-54. doi: 10.1191/026921601666624292.


Subcutaneous delivery of drugs using a syringe driver is common practice within specialist palliative care units. There is, however, little documented information regarding clinical practice. A survey performed in 1992 reported that at least 28 drugs were used in combination with others in a single syringe driver. The aim of the present study was to reassess practice in this field and to enquire more specifically about newer drugs. Postal questionnaires were sent to all adult specialist palliative care in-patient units in the UK and Eire (n = 208). One hundred and sixty-five units (79%) responded. The most common syringe driver in use was the Graseby 26 (61% of responding units). Most units delivered the contents of the syringe over 24 h, and water was usually used as the diluent in 90% of cases. The maximum number of drugs that respondents were prepared to mix in a single syringe was usually three (51%) or four (35%). In the UK, all units used diamorphine in doses from 2.5 mg/24 h upwards. All respondents also used haloperidol, in doses from 0.5 to 60 mg/24 h. A total of 28 different drugs were used in syringe drivers. The most common combinations were diamorphine and midazolam (37%), diamorphine and levomepromazine (35%), diamorphine and haloperidol (33%), and diamorphine and cyclizine (31%). In conclusion, there is much in common with regard to the way in which drugs are delivered in syringe drivers. However, a wide variety of drugs and drug combinations are still in use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage*
  • Cyclizine / administration & dosage
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Haloperidol / administration & dosage
  • Heroin / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Ireland
  • Methotrimeprazine / administration & dosage
  • Midazolam / administration & dosage
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Syringes*
  • United Kingdom


  • Analgesics
  • Heroin
  • Methotrimeprazine
  • Haloperidol
  • Cyclizine
  • Midazolam