Identifying injection sites

Drug injection sites vary with the administration route. The instructions below describe proper identification of injection sites for IM, SC, and IV drugs.

To begin, wash your hands, put on gloves and locate the appropriate site. Clean the site with an alcohol swab and administer the injection as described here.

Intramuscular Injections (IM)

An IM injection can be administered into the muscles as shown below. The specific injection sites are shaded in the illustrations.

Deltoid site

Deltoid site

  • Locate the lower edge of the acromial process

  • Insert the needle 1" to 2" below the acromial process at a 90-degree angle
Dorsogluteal site

Dorsogluteal site

  • Draw an imaginary line from the posterior superior iliac spine to the greater trochanter

  • Insert the needle at a 90-degree angle above and outside the drawn line

  • You can administer a Z-track injection through this site. After drawing up the drug, change the needle, displace the skin lateral to the injection site, withdraw the needle, and then release the skin
Ventrogluteal site

Ventrogluteal site

  • With the palm of your hand, locate the greater trochanter of the femur

  • Spread your index and middle fingers posteriorly from the anterior superior iliac spine to the furthest area possible. This is the correct injection site

  • Remove your fingers and insert the needle at a 90-degree angle
Vastus lateralis and rectus femoris sites

Vastus Lateralis and Rectus Femoris sites

  • Find the lateral quadriceps muscle for the vastus lateralis, or the anterior thigh for the rectus femoris

  • Insert the needle at a 90-degree angle into the middle third of the muscle, parallel to the skin surface

Subcutaneous Injections (SC)

SC drugs can be injected into the fat pads on the abdomen, buttocks, upper back, and lateral upper arms and thighs (shaded in the illustrations below). If your patient requires frequent SC injections, make sure to rotate injection sites.

  • Gently gather and elevate or spread SC tissue

  • Insert the needle at a 45- or 90-degree angle, depending on the drug or the amount of S.C. tissue at the site
Subcutaneous injection sites

IV Injection sites

Intravenous Injections (IV)

IV drugs can be injected into the veins of the arms and hands. The illustration at right shows commonly used sites.

  • Locate the vein using a tourniquet

  • Insert the catheter at a slight angle (about 10 degrees)

  • Release the tourniquet when blood appears in the syringe or tubing

  • Slowly inject the drug into the vein


It is important to be aware of local laws and policies, including the drug manufacturers' recommendations, regarding approved injection sites and administration methods. Also note that all nurses have a responsibility to adhere to professional scopes of practice when undertaking clinical procedures.

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