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Syringe handling tips

Q: My cat has chronic kidney disease, so I inject sterile fluids under her skin using a fluid bag suspended from above, a drip line from the bag, and a hypodermic needle. When finished, I recap the used needle, remove it from the line, and replace it with a sterile needle for the following day’s treatment.

Today I accidentally stuck myself when I recapped the needle. How can I prevent this in the future?

A: As you learned the hard way, never recap a needle using both hands. Here are several safer syringe handling techniques:

1. Check the sharps container where you dispose of your used needles. Many have built-in needle removers that don’t require you to recap your needle.

2. Hold the fluid line in one hand and use small needle-nose pliers in your other hand to grasp the needle hub. Remove the needle and deposit it in your sharps container.

3. Use the one-handed technique: Lay the needle cap on its side near a solid object, such as the back of the counter. Push the needle into the cap until it clicks into place. Then twist the capped needle off the fluid line.

4. Buy an inexpensive needle removal station that holds the cap firmly, open end up. Insert the needle into the cap until it clicks into place, and then proceed as above.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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