Epinephrine Autoinjectors: Safety Tips

EpiPens may cause injury in some cases

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Even lifesaving devices like epinephrine autoinjectors can pose risks. That's why it's important to use them safely.

A new study found that the most common epinephrine autoinjector, called the EpiPen, may injure children in rare cases.

"We were surprised by the severity of some of these injuries, including thigh lacerations and embedded needles," said lead study author Julie C. Brown, MDCM, MPH, of Seattle Children's Hospital and University of Washington in Seattle, in a press release. "We can't think of anywhere else in pediatric medicine where we would hold a needle in an awake child's leg for 10 seconds. That's a set-up for injury, particularly in the uncontrolled, stressful setting of anaphylaxis. In addition, the instructions for use do not mention patient restraint, so parents are not appropriately prepared."

Dr. Brown noted that EpiPens can be lifesaving for children with allergies. Children with severe food allergies can go into anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition that causes trouble breathing, pain, low blood pressure and rashes, among other symptoms. EpiPens and other epinephrine autoinjectors can save these children's lives.

"We want to emphasize that these injuries are uncommon and should not deter parents and patients from using their epinephrine auto-injectors when needed," Dr. Brown said. "Epinephrine is a life-saving medication that must be given early in the course of anaphylaxis. Our goal in reporting these injuries is not to create fear of the EpiPen device but simply to identify limitations with the device, and hopefully motivate improvements in product design and instructions for use."

After looking at 22 reports of EpiPen-related injuries, Dr. Brown and team came up with several recommendations to reduce the risk of these injuries. Although no autoinjectors call for the patient's leg to be held still, these researchers said that doing so could help prevent injuries. Dr. Brown and colleagues also said that the needle should stay in the patient's leg for as little time as possible and that the needle should never be inserted into the patient a second time.

Dr. Brown and team noted that they did not see similar injuries reported from the use of Auvi-Q epinephrine devices.

This study was published Oct. 8 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Brown and team disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 8, 2015
Last Updated:
October 9, 2015