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What is a Retractable Syringe?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A retractable syringe is a syringe that is designed to allow the needle to retract after use. This is a type of safety syringe intended to reduce the risk of needlestick injuries. Several manufacturers of medical devices and supplies produce retractable syringes and there are several different styles on the market. They are available through medical supply catalogs and some pharmacies for home use by people who need to give injections, and are also ordered in bulk by hospitals and clinics.

These devices are designed for a single use. Single use syringes are safer for patients because they limit the spread of disease between patients and they are also more comfortable because the needle is not dulled with repeated uses. In the case of a retractable syringe, the device is usually rendered inoperable after use, making it impossible to accidentally reuse the retractable syringe for another task.

In autoretractable syringes, the needle springs back up into the syringe after use automatically. These designs are often intended to be one-handed, increasing safety and making them easier to use. However, people may be concerned about accidentally activating the syringe when they are administering an injection and thus may fail to deliver a full dose of medication. Manual syringes require the practitioner to do something to the syringe to get the needle to retract, such as pulling the plunger. This may require two hands with some designs.

After use, retractable syringes are biohazarous and must be disposed of in containers intended for the collection of medical waste. Depending on policies at a hospital or waste management company, the retractable syringe may need to go into a sharps container even though the needle is contained, or it may go into an ordinary medical waste bin. In devices where the plunger must be pulled back to retract the needle, it is usually necessary to snap the plunger off in order to dispose of the syringe.

Using a retractable syringe is not very different from using an ordinary syringe, but practitioners usually like to practice before using the device on a person. Oranges are particular popular for practicing injections because the rind is of a thickness and consistency that feels similar to giving injections in human skin. Practicing with the syringe allows people to perfect the technique so that they can use it safely around patients and feel familiar with the device when they are in emergency situations.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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