Performing subcutaneous injections: a literature review

Worldviews Evid Based Nurs. 2005;2(3):122-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-6787.2005.00030.x.


Background: Persons using daily subcutaneous injections to administer medicine perform them in different ways and thereby increase the risk of skin complications related to the injection. It is often part of nurses' role to administer medicine and educate the patient in injection technique. Course literature in nursing education, commercial patient education pamphlets, and instructional leaflets do not give consistent advice regarding subcutaneous injection technique.

Aim: The aim of this review was to identify the scientific foundation for the technical performance of subcutaneous injections. The question to be answered was: How should a subcutaneous injection be administered to achieve the right dose in the right place with minimum complications?

Method: The review included a search in three databases, a screening process at abstract level, followed by a quality assessment of included articles. The quality assessment was done independently by two people and followed specific protocols.

Result: A total of 38 articles were assessed for quality and covered information on dose, location, and complications of subcutaneous injection. The assessed studies are heterogeneous in design and describe different aspects of the subcutaneous injection technique. Therefore, the scientific foundation for technical performance is weak. However, several studies indicate that the amount of subcutaneous fat and appropriate needle length are of high importance for the drug to reach the target tissue.

Conclusion: More research regarding effective subcutaneous injection technique needs to be done.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous* / adverse effects
  • Injections, Subcutaneous* / methods
  • Injections, Subcutaneous* / nursing
  • Insulin / administration & dosage*
  • Insulin / therapeutic use


  • Insulin