Intramuscular shots are often given at the wrong spot, risking nerve damage

If you’re a hospital patient, telling a nurse how to do her job probably won’t win you any fans among the nursing staff. But it might save you from considerable pain.

A new report in the Journal of Advanced Nursing indicates that most nurses are not giving intramuscular injections correctly.

And here’s the worst part: Most of them KNOW they’re giving the injections incorrectly, but they do it anyway.

Here’s the wrong way: The injection is given in the dorsogluteal (DG) buttock site. And if that isn’t absolutely clear, here it is a little more directly: in the butt.

When injections are given in the DG site, there’s a risk of damaging the sciatic nerve. This is the longest nerve in your body, so injury to the nerve can be quite painful. Other possible injuries include muscle fibrosis, nerve paralysis, abscesses, and even gangrene.

The better place to give an intramuscular injection is the ventrogluteal (VG) hip site. In other words: on the side of the buttock. This site actually provides better access to muscle tissue and medication is absorbed faster.

This is also the site that’s recommended in nursing literature.

So why do so many nurses go for the DG instead of the VG? Nurses who used the DG site said they’re more comfortable with the site and it’s easier to locate.

And there may also be an Old School vs. New School issue here. Most younger nurses have been trained to use the VG site, while more experienced nurses use the DG.

More than 12 billion intramuscular injections are given every year. If you’re among those on the receiving end, try to steer the nurse away from your, well…receiving end.

“Most nurses don’t use recommended intramuscular injection site despite potential risks” Wiley-Blackwell press release, 5/9/11,

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