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Question:

In regards to your suggestion of reusing syringes and lancets, I would suggest that you consider the infections that reuse may cause. Just because a person has the organisms on their skin doesn't mean they can't multiply and be introduced into the body. I firmly believe that this is an incomplete recommendation, especially when directed at diabetics who may have an increased risk of infection.

Answer:

There have been several studies looking at the risk of infection when reusing insulin syringes. I have listed references to several below. None of these studies show any significant risk of infection when reusing disposable syringes which have been kept "reasonably clean" by recapping.

I am not convinced however, that this practice is completely safe. One potential problem is reusing syringes which have been used with mixtures of insulin. There is always some insulin left in the syringe and needle after use. When the needle is reintroduced into a bottle of insulin at the next injection, there is a possiblility of cross contamination of the first bottle if you inject air or push the plunger back and forth to get rid of an air bubble when you draw up the insulin.

I am also particularly concerned about multiple reuse of the newer, thinner needles, that there may be a chance of the needle becoming weak and possibly breaking on injection with repeated use. I have not heard of this happening, and doubt it would happen after a few uses (such as reusing the needle on a pen injector). I have, however, seen these new thinner needles bend after repeated use.

The other practical problem is that these sharp needles tend to become dull and more painful after only a few injections.

Here is a list of some studies you may wish to read for further information:

  1. Chlup, R., Marsalek, E., and Bruns, W. "A prospective study of the hazards of multiple use of disposable syringes and needles in intensified insulin therapy." Diabet Med 1990 Aug; 7(7):624-7.
  2. Fisher, B.M., Heatley, C., and Small, M. "Reuse of disposable plastic insulin syringes." BMJ. 1991 Aug 3; 303(6797):286-7.
  3. Collins, B.J., Richardson, S.G., Spence, B.K., Hunter, J., and Nelson, J.K. "Safety of reusing disposable plastic insulin syringes." Lancet. 1983 Mar 12; 1(8324):559-61.
  4. Stepanas, T.V., Turley, H., and Tuohy, E.A. "Reuse of disposable insulin syringes." Med J Aust. 1982 Apr 3; 1(7):311-3.
  5. Aziz, S. "Recurrent use of disposable syringe-needle units in diabetic children." Diabetes Care. 1984 Mar-Apr; 7(2):118-20.
  6. Strathclyde Diabetic Group. "Disposable or non-disposable syringes and needles for diabetics?" Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983 Jan 29; 286(6362):369-70.
  7. Hodge, R.H. Jr, Krongaard, L., Sande, M.A., and Kaiser, D.L. "Multiple use of disposable insulin syringe-needle units." JAMA 1980 Jul 18; 244(3):266-7.

TGL

[Editor's comment: If you do reuse your insulin needles, there's one additional comment: don't bother "wiping" the needle with an alcohol swab before storing the needle for your next use. It doesn't kill germs, and does wipe off the silicone layer that helps keep the needle sharp. WWQ]

[Editor's comment: Must of the discussion I have heard surrounding reuse of syringes and lancets comes from adults with diabetes who do not have health insurance. They must make the most of everything they purchase, and reuse is a fact of life for them. When money is tight, people find ways to make do. No one with whom I corresponded reported any increase in infections as a result or syringe or lancet reuse. Some reported changing after a set period of time -- perhaps a day or two -- while others changed when a needle started to hurt, indicating that it had become dull or that the protective coating had worn off, and changed lancets when it hurt more than usual, indicating that the lancet had become dull. JSH]

Original posting 8 May 97

  
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:54
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