Parenteral Drug Administration

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  • 0:04 Parenteral Drug Administration
  • 0:59 Parenteral Drug Routes
  • 2:13 Parenteral Drug Equipment
  • 4:03 Preparing Injectable…
  • 5:09 Parenteral Injection Sites
  • 6:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Morgan Knowles

Morgan has been a peri-operative educator for four years and has a Master's degree in Nursing Education.

In this lesson we will define the meaning of parenteral drug administration. Learn about the preparation, items, and methods of injection, as well as common locations on the body for administering each type of injection.

Parenteral Drug Administration

Have you ever wondered why you have to poke yourself with a needle to administer your medication? Why can't you just take a pill? The fact is, every medication cannot simply be a pill, and some medications require parenteral administration. What is parenteral drug administration? The word parenteral means without passing through the digestive system. Parenteral drugs are most commonly administered as an injection without entering the mouth, stomach, intestines, rectum or respiratory tract. The parenteral route allows medications to be directly absorbed into the body quickly and more predictably. Factors such as illness, organ function, and digestion have less impact on the medication taking effect with the parenteral route. Some medication requires parenteral administration. Examples include when a drug cannot withstand stomach acid, cannot be absorbed efficiently, or the drug is too irritating to the body when administered by other routes.

Parenteral Drug Routes

Most of us have our fair share of experience with getting parenteral injections. Some of you might even have some traumatic memories of being told you were going to the fair, waiting with excitement and anticipation in a long line, only to find a nurse waiting at the end of the line ready to give you your vaccines for school, or maybe that is just me. Those school vaccines were intramuscular injections, which are injections into the muscle. Some other primary parenteral administration methods are intradermal (into the top layer of skin), subcutaneous (into the fatty tissue under the skin), and intravenous (into the vein).

A few of you might recognize some of these routes of injection; if you have ever had a baby perhaps you had a less frequently used route of injection such as a spinal or epidural injection into your back in the spinal or epidural space to numb the pain of labor. Some of you might be living with some chronic joint pain and are a bit more familiar with intra-articular injections into the joint to relieve your joint inflammation. Some other less frequently used parenteral routes of administration are intra-arterial (into an artery), intracardiac (into the heart muscle), intrapleural (into the fluid-filled space surrounding the lungs), and intraosseous (into the bone).

Parenteral Drug Equipment

Syringes and needles are both single-use items needed for parenteral drug administration. Syringes should be selected based on the dose amount of medication to be administered, as well as the unit of medication to be measured. There are three main types of syringes; the first type, hypodermic syringes have milliliter measurements and come in sizes from three to sixty milliliters. These syringes are used for pretty much all medication injections over two milliliters of volume. The second type, tuberculin syringes, have tenths and hundredths of a milliliter measurements but only come in a volume of one milliliter. These are typically used to inject tuberculosis skin tests, hence the name, but can be used for the accurate delivery of medications under one milliliter. The third type, insulin syringes, have unit measurements and are designed for insulin medication administration. The size of the syringe should depend on the amount of medication being given.

Needles, on the other hand, should be selected based on the type of injection to be administered and the size of the person. Needles are labeled with the needle gauge, in other words, the diameter or bore of the needle, followed by the length of the needle. Needle gauge measurements are not quite as expected: the smaller the number of the gauge, the larger the bore or diameter of the needle. For example, an 18 gauge needle is larger than a 30 gauge needle. When choosing a needle for an injection consider the amount of the injection and the depth of the tissue layer you are injecting into. An intradermal injection into the top layer of skin would only need a small bore short needle as compared to an intramuscular injection, which would need a longer needle with a bore that is a bit larger to be able to reach and inject the medication into deeper and denser muscle. An intravenous injection does not usually require a needle because a syringe can be connected directly to the needleless ports on an intravenous line.

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