Syringe Drivers are small portable (usually battery-operated) devices used to administer medications in palliative care. A single drug, or more often a combination of drugs, is given via a slow continuous subcutaneous infusion to help control symptoms when other routes of administration are no longer viable, feasible or preferred.
Common indications for use of syringe drivers in palliative care include:
The portability of syringe driver and suitability for all clinical settings are advantages to this means of administering medicines. This can remove or diminish the need for intramuscular or intravenous injections. As syringe drivers provide a constant level of medicine, the plasma concentration remains at the optimum therapeutic level with no peaks or troughs.
Syringe drivers can be used intermittently or discontinued if symptoms can later be managed by the oral route. If the person is able to move around, they might find it helpful to have a syringe driver bag to keep it safe and in a comfortable position.
drivers are a convenient method of medication delivery, not all medications can
be delivered subcutaneously.
For nurses to correctly use
syringe drivers, they need to be adequately trained. Other disadvantages
people might be worried that the use of a syringe driver causes the person to
die sooner. It is important to discuss with them why the syringe driver is
being considered. Listen to their concerns and reassure them that the syringe driver
is a safe and effective way to manage their symptoms. You can also reassure
them that analgesics and other medicines are safe and effective when prescribed
appropriately and administered correctly.
Nurses need to visit regularly
(usually daily) to review the person’s symptoms and set up a new syringe of
medication. They will also change the cannula regularly.
In the meantime, certain things need to
be monitored routinely. These include:
If the syringe driver alarm
sounds check for empty syringe, blocked needle, or tubing (includes kinked
tube), or jammed plunger.
about commonly used medications, incompatibilities, contraindications,
equipment, and techniques are available in the:
Caution must be taken when looking at any overseas information as there can be differences in the drugs, dosages and devices that are used.
As with any intervention or change to patient care, adequate education and support should be provided to the person receiving care and their support network. Education and support are important for people caring for someone at home who has a syringe driver. Caring@home provides online education for nurses on supporting carers to manage subcutaneous medicines.
Visit Caring@home for online education
For online education on using the NIKI T34™, T34™ & BodyGuard™ T syringe pumps and SurefuserTM+ infusion device, visit PallConsult, an initiative of Queensland Health.
This information was drawn from the following resources:
Download CPCRE's Guidelines for subcutaneous infusion devices (4.7MB pdf)
View PallConsult's online learning packages on syringe drivers
Access more Syringe Driver resources
For online education on using the NIKI T34™, T34™ & BodyGuard™ T syringe pumps
and SurefuserTM+ infusion device visit PallConsult, an initiative of Queensland Health.
Page updated 24 April 2023