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Principal Routes & Sites of Drug Administration

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  • 0:53 Principal Routes
  • 3:25 Principal Sites
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

How are drugs administered into the body and where? If they are injected, where should they be injected? This lesson goes over the principal routes and sites we use to administer drugs in medicine.

Principal Routes & Sites

Say you are in a hospital and need some medication administered. How will you get it? Will you drink it? Will you be jabbed with a needle? If you're going to be jabbed with a needle, where will it be stuck into your body? The answers to these questions actually depend on many factors, including the person's medication, condition, and mental state- and the pharmacology of the drug in question.

While there are many issues to consider when giving medication, including myriad routes and sites of drug administration, this lesson will only focus on the principal ones so you're not overwhelmed with too much information all at once. When I say routes, I mean the different general ways we can give a medication, such as orally, rectally, by vein, and so on. When I say sites, I mean the specific locations on the body where we give the medication (usually an injection).

Principal Routes

There are four principal routes of drug administration. They are known by their abbreviations: IM, IV, SQ, and PO.

IM stands for intramuscular, where intra- means 'within' and muscular obviously refers to a muscle. This means we are injecting a person with a medication, but we are using a syringe and needle to place it directly into the muscle itself.

IV is the abbreviation for intravenous. Knowing what intra- means already, you can clearly understand that this route of drug administration is injecting the medication into the vein directly. In this instance, we're also using a needle and a syringe, or a catheter, to place the drug into a person's venous system. This is the fastest and most direct way a drug can be administered into the body.

SQ stands for subcutaneous. Sub- means 'under,' like in a submarine. And cutaneous refers to the skin. So, we are placing the medication, using a needle and syringe, under the skin but above the muscle that the skin overlies.

The final major and principal route of drug administration is PO, or per os. Per means 'by' and os means 'mouth,' so PO literally translates to 'by mouth.' Every time you take a pill and swallow it down with some water, you are taking that pill PO.

Before I move on, I do want to give you a concrete example of why it's important to know these different sites of drug administration in a more practical setting. Let's say that you are a doctor working in an emergency room. In comes a patient, being wheeled into the ER. The patient is unconscious and thus not responding to anything. You know that they need to get a medication that will help revive them as soon as possible.

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