Ignorance over insulin injections a concern, says leading GP

Nearly half don't rotate the injection site, survey finds

Long-term insulin users need more advice on proper injection technique, according to an online survey that found nearly half don't use the correct needle size or rotate the injection site.

Worryingly, the online survey of 386 people with type 1 or 2 diabetes reveals that 42% have never been shown the correct needle technique.

And one in three have never had their injection sites checked by a healthcare professional.

Among those who have been using insulin for five years or more, more than two-thirds have not had their injection technique checked in the past 18 months, the survey by medical technology company Becton Dickinson Australia shows.

The survey reveals only:

  • 44%, most of whom use pen needles, use the recommended 4mm and 5mm needles.
  • 49% reuse pen needles.
  • 58% don’t leave the pen needle in for the correct amount of time.

The picture is even bleaker for the 105 younger participants (under 50), with around eight in 10 failing to correctly change the injection site.

Among those who do change sites, 79% fail to do so correctly.  

Despite 20% of participants reporting that diabetes has an “extreme” impact on their life, 18% admit they are not always truthful with healthcare practitioners.

Around one in five also feel that healthcare providers speak down to them.

Dr Gary Deed, chair of the RACGP’s Diabetes Specific Interest Network, says the results suggest GPs could be missing an opportunity to ensure treatment is as effective as it should be.

“It’s also concerning to see how many respondents were using longer needles (6mm, 8mm or 12.7mm), as they are more likely to inject into the muscle layer, which can be uncomfortable as well as affecting medication absorption,” he says.

Practitioner awareness of technological advances in medicine doesn't appear to extend to pen needles, he adds.

“We tend to think there’s nothing new to discuss with patients about injecting their diabetes medication,” Dr Deed says.

However, the results do highlight that GPs are an important source of advice for patients, with 42% of participants reporting that their GP has shown them how to inject insulin.

GPs are second only to diabetes educators, who have demonstrated injection technique to 48% of the participants.

But the fact that patients under 50 are less engaged with healthcare professionals indicates that GPs have a “bigger job to do” with younger patients, Dr Deed says.

GPs need to engage them in a broader conversation about diabetes management, beyond their HbA1c levels, he advises.