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A subcutaneous injection is so named because the medication being delivered goes into the subcutaneous tissue, rather than a vein, muscle, or body fat. Subcutaneous tissue is the layer of tissue directly under the skin. SubQ injections can be given in various parts of the body where the space between skin and muscle can be easily accessed. With so many subcutaneous injection sites, knowing which site to use can be tricky.
In humans, the area of upper arm, located between the elbow and shoulder, is one of several popular subcutaneous injection sites. To determine the right area, one can pinch the skin and pull. If the skin stretches more than an inch, it's a good spot for a subcutaneous injection.
Another commonly used area for subcutaneous injections is above the hipbone but below the waist. Mid body, the lower back can also be used to deliver subcutaneous medication. When giving a shot, a person can look below the waist for the line running across the back and inject in the middle, staying away from the spine. The middle of the thigh is also a good area for this type of injection, anywhere between the front to the outer side, as long as there is enough skin to pinch.
The thigh may be most convenient for those injecting themselves. Some medications, however, may have a preferred injection site so it is important for a patient to ask care providers if self-injecting. Those who get queasy at the sight of a needle and don't need to inject themselves may prefer the back, where the process will be out of sight.
If more than one subcutaneous drug will be needed over time, it is important to rotate where the subcutaneous injection sites being used. If injecting in the thigh, for example, it's best to select a spot at least 1 inch (2.54 cm) away from the previous injection site. Injecting into the same spot repeatedly could result in scarring.
A small needle is typically used to deliver subcutaneous injections, so the amount of pain felt should be minimal. These types of shots are often given when it's preferable that medication be absorbed slowly into the body or when a very small amount of medication is being injected. Injecting is fairly simple. Grasping the skin away from the flesh, the needle is inserted, held at a 90 degree angle if the skin can be pulled 2 inches (5.08 cm), or 45 degrees if it can only be pulled 1 inch (2.54 cm).
People with elderly pets suffering from dehydration or chronic kidney disease often find themselves learning how to deliver a subcutaneous injection. The subcutaneous injection sites that work in humans will not work for animals. Giving pets fluids subcutaneously can often make the difference between life and death for a family pet. This subcutaneous treatment is given in the scruff, where a large swath of skin can easily be grasped.
Once you get used to doing it, subcutaneous injections are no big deal. When I was taking Byetta, and later, Victoza, I injected myself, usually in the abdomen or thigh, with no trouble. The needles were small.
The problem started when I tried Bydureon, which is a once a week injection. The medication would raise up large knots under my skin that would take days to disappear. That's one of the reasons I stopped taking it.
Ordinarily, though, subcutaneous injections are done very quickly and easily, once the person gets the hang of the process.
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