Butterfly needles are commonly used to draw blood or administer infusions in situations where a regular straight needle is not ideal. Common reasons for using a butterfly needle and needle gauge include:
- Patient is prone to movement
- Patient has needle anxieties
- To provide increased precision
- To allow greater freedom of movement during drawing or infusion
- Increased success for patients with thin or blown veins
When compared to traditional straight needles, butterfly needles are often shorter, include rubber wings on both sides and have a tube attached to the end for easy connection to collection tubes or medicinal units. The wings provide added grip and accuracy when handling the needle. Many butterfly needle sets include a butterfly needle safety cover that should be applied immediately after a needle is removed from the patient.
Butterfly needle sizes are measured by gauge, or needle diameter. Common butterfly needle gauge measurements include 21, 23 and 25-gauge needle sets. When comparing needles, a larger number indicates a thinner needle. The butterfly needle gauge you plan to use is an important aspect to consider. Things to consider when deciding the gauge of butterfly needle to use include the following factors below.
Guidelines For Butterfly Needle Gauge Selection
- Size of patients veins—higher gauge needles work better for pediatric or geriatric patients in many cases. However, care should be taken as creating too much vacuum when drawing or pressure when infusing can have harmful side effects and even render a sample useless.
- Speed of infusion or draw—thinner needles move less fluid that thicker needles. Depending on time requirements or the equipment and tubing used, particular butterfly needle sizes might be required.
- Specific medication requirements—some medications are thicker and more viscous. This requires a larger diameter needle to properly infuse the medication without causing complications with clotting or pressure in the loop.
By properly choosing the correct butterfly needle gauge, practice proper techniques and handling the needle by proper butterfly needle safety protocol, you can gain the benefit of quicker, more reliable draws and infusions. This can result in less discomfort for the patient and better overall patient demeanor.
However, with the shorter length that a butterfly needle provides, care should be taken when choosing a vein. No amount of bed side manner or reassurance can make up for having to re-stick a patient. Care should also be taken with the tubing. If clotting occurs within the tubing, a re-stick will be required to get the procedure moving along again.
For those looking to purchase a butterfly needle and Huber needle, most medical supply stores carry a wide variety of gauges. Care should be taken to ensure that needles are contained with sterile packaging and stored in a temperate, dry environment. Exposure to excessive heat can cause degradation of the rubber or tubing included, while non-sterile needles can lead to infection and illness.