Incidence and causes for syringe driver site reactions in palliative care: A prospective hospice-based study

Palliat Med. 2012 Dec;26(8):979-85. doi: 10.1177/0269216311428096. Epub 2011 Nov 14.


Background: Syringe drivers are routinely used in palliative care for the subcutaneous infusion of drugs for pain and symptom control. Local site reactions occurring at the site of infusion can lead to patient discomfort and the potential for sub-optimal symptom control.

Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate whether there was a correlation between drugs administered subcutaneously via a syringe driver and the incidence of syringe driver site reactions, further linking this to time to syringe driver site reaction.

Design: Prospective quantitative data collection of syringe driver use for 170 hospice inpatients.

Setting/participants: Specialist palliative care inpatient facility in the UK. Syringe driver recording forms were retrieved from case notes of consecutive patients who received medication via a syringe driver.

Results: An association between the presence of cyclizine and levomepromazine and the incidence of syringe driver site reactions was identified. A marked difference in incidence of syringe driver site reaction was observed between the two study centres (26.5% vs. 7.7%). Although baseline patient characteristics were comparable, a difference in practice between the centres was identified, i.e. use of parenteral cannulae. An association between the time a syringe driver was in situ and the occurrence of a syringe driver site reaction was also demonstrated.

Conclusions: Recommendations can be made for the frequency of syringe driver site changes based on which drugs are in use. Incidental findings from the study have been used to change practice at the hospice study site, with regard to choice of parenteral cannulae.

MeSH terms

  • Cyclizine / administration & dosage
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Hospice Care / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Infusion Pumps / adverse effects*
  • Infusions, Parenteral / adverse effects*
  • Infusions, Subcutaneous / adverse effects*
  • Methotrimeprazine / administration & dosage
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Syringes*


  • Methotrimeprazine
  • Cyclizine