BACKGROUND: Bruising and induration associated with subcutaneous heparin injection often result in sustained tenderness and severe ecchymosis at the injection site. Research-based practice guidelines for subcutaneous heparin administration are needed to reduce these adverse effects. OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of syringe size (1-mL vs 3-mL) on postinjection-site bruising and induration following the administration of subcutaneous heparin. METHODS: A convenience sample of 29 subjects receiving 5000 units of subcutaneous heparin at least twice a day was recruited from a large urban hospital. Subjects received their regularly scheduled subcutaneous heparin injections with a 3-mL or a 1-mL syringe in a randomized sequence using a standardized procedure. Injection sites were assessed for bruises and induration at 24, 48, and 72 hours after injection. RESULTS: The incidence of injection site bruising with 1- and 3-mL syringes was 79% and 69%, respectively. The use of a 3-mL vs 1-mL syringe resulted in significantly smaller bruises at 48 and 72 hours after injection. Induration at the injection site occurred in three patients. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that 3-mL syringes are preferable to 1-mL syringes for heparin administration. The effect of other injection-related variables should be studied with the use of the 3-mL syringe, and tested on various populations.

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