Advantages and Disadvantages of Butterfly Needles in Phlebotomy: A Comprehensive Comparison

When it comes to drawing blood, phlebotomists often face a wide range of challenges such as differing vein size and location. Butterfly needles provide an alternative solution to the traditional straight needle method, offering many advantages yet with some disadvantages too.

This article aims to discuss these benefits and drawbacks in greater detail so that healthcare professionals are able to make informed decisions when selecting which type of needle is best suited for their patient’s needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Butterfly needles provide improved comfort, accuracy, and control for phlebotomy procedures.
  • Straight needles are preferred for deeper veins, larger volumes of blood collection, and administering a hep lock.
  • Phlebotomists should take into account the patient’s size and medical history when selecting the appropriate needle to ensure safety & comfort during venipuncture.
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Understanding Butterfly Needles

Butterfly needles, also referred to as winged infusion sets, offer an alternative to traditional straight needles in phlebotomy. These specialized syringes provide enhanced control with their shorter length and plastic wings, facilitating easier vein insertion for practitioners collecting blood samples.

When considering the use of butterfly needles for any blood-related procedure, it is essential to understand both their components and available sizes, as these factors play a crucial role in sample collection.

The term ‘butterfly needle’ is synonymous with improved precision compared to regular straight designs. Many healthcare facilities now favor them due to the reduced risk of accidental injury when correctly inserting or removing them.

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Components of Butterfly Needles

Butterfly needles typically consist of hollow needles and plastic wings, often accompanied by a syringe or tube holder. Enhanced stability during insertion is achieved with the inclusion of a lever lock. Healthcare professionals can effectively handle butterfly needles by holding them between their thumb and index finger, providing better control for precise placement.

The use of butterfly needles offers significantly greater accuracy compared to straight needles, attributed to their proximity to the phlebotomist’s grip. This design minimizes the risk of rolling or movement during blood collection, ensuring steadiness.

Available tubes for butterfly needles vary in length, ranging from 8 inches to 15 inches (20-35 centimeters). The choice depends on whether the application is for blood collection or intravenous (IV) purposes, such as administering medical liquids through roller valves attached to longer tubes.

Butterfly Needle Sizes

Butterfly needles with gauges ranging from 18 to 27 are frequently used for veins in the extremities. While smaller needle sizes are advantageous for patients with delicate blood vessels, higher-gauge needles may pose a potential risk. There is a greater likelihood of cell damage during venipuncture with higher-gauge needles, especially with 25-gauge equipment, as evidenced by impacted results from testing samples taken with these smaller variants compared to larger 23-gauge tools.

To address concerns over hemolysis, some manufacturers have introduced a design featuring a slightly thicker external diameter while maintaining a thinner core. This design allows for safe use, reducing the chances of harm to the blood cells involved.

Advantages of Using Butterfly Needles

Butterfly needles provide several advantages when it comes to drawing blood, such as enhanced comfort during the procedure, compatibility with delicate veins, and improved precision. To examine these benefits more closely, let’s take a look at each of them in turn.

Firstly, butterfly needles greatly reduce the degree of discomfort often associated with traditional methods used for collecting blood samples which is especially important when dealing with smaller veins or those that are difficult to find beneath the skin surface. Secondly, their design suits fragile veins, providing a reliable option for accessing small or delicate vessels. Lastly, butterfly needles offer greater control and precision during venipuncture, ensuring accurate placement in hard-to-reach areas.

Less Painful Blood Draws

When performing blood draws, phlebotomists often prefer to use butterfly needles since they can access veins closer to the skin’s surface. As these are thinner than standard-sized needles, there is less pain for patients due to a more precise and controlled insertion into the vein as well as quicker and smoother blood flow with its higher gauge.

Medical practitioners should consider factors like patient vein size, condition, and medication volume when choosing needle sizes to minimize discomfort during draw procedures.

Suitable for Fragile Veins

Due to their design with a shallow angle and beveled edge, combined with the plastic wings for better control during insertion, butterfly needles are an ideal choice when it comes to accessing small or fragile veins such as superficial ones.

Flexible tubes with a needle attached at one end, like butterfly needles, excel at entering thin or rolling vessels, making them ideal for accessing difficult-to-reach areas. Studies affirm their effectiveness in extracting blood from delicate veins, emphasizing their suitability for obtaining samples from tiny and vulnerable sites.

Greater Control and Precision

Butterfly needles, with their shorter length and plastic wings, are especially useful for blood draws, allowing accurate placement on veins in hard-to-reach areas. The beveled tip with silicone coating ensures precision during venipuncture, minimizing discomfort for patients.

These features collectively make butterfly needles effective for delicate and precise procedures involving the extraction or introduction of substances like blood.

Disadvantages of Using Butterfly Needles

When performing phlebotomy, butterfly needles offer various advantages. They also come with a few disadvantages. One such con is the slower rate of blood collection compared to other types of needles and their higher cost which limits applications in certain areas.

Slower Blood Collection

Blood collection through butterfly needles may take more time due to their restricted diameter, impacting flow rate and potentially causing discomfort for patients. Health professionals must ensure a quick draw to avoid unreliable test results or contamination risks, such as hemolysis from delays.

Collecting blood with small-gauge needles requires accuracy, and healthcare providers should handle the process swiftly without compromising sample integrity or quality standards.

Higher Cost

The difference in price between a butterfly needle and a straight one reflects the extra features of the first such as flexible tubing or connectors. Butterfly needles are preferred due to their capacity for insertion at an angle with reduced pain levels, but this increased cost could lead to decreased use instead of more budget-friendly alternatives. Labs and medical facilities may be affected by their higher expenditure when it comes to supplying them compared with regular needles.

Limited Applications

The use of butterfly needles is limited when a needle size smaller than gauge 25 needs to be reused or for long-term IV fluid administration. It should not be employed in the collection of blood samples during prenatal testing due to its potential risk of causing percutaneous injury.

Butterfly needles are mainly used as an alternative method when veins are difficult to locate and have thin vessels, which tend to roll, occur, and cannot be accessed easily by any other means.

Straight Needles vs. Butterfly Needles

When it comes to phlebotomy, both straight and butterfly needles have their own pros and cons. As a result, understanding the distinctions between these two kinds of needles is essential for any phlebotomist so they can pick out the correct one for each patient or procedure.

Considering all factors carefully when choosing which kind of needle will be utilized in an individual situation may assist the phlebotomists in making informed decisions about using either a straight or butterfly type.

When to Use Straight Needles

Straight needles are the go-to choice for taking blood when deeper veins must be accessed or a larger amount is needed. These types of needles have greater rigidity and wider gauge size, making them more suitable for patients with bigger/easier-to-access veins as well as administering hep locks.

It’s important that straight needles are carefully inserted at the right angle in order to collect enough blood whilst ensuring patient safety and comfort during the procedure.

When to Use Butterfly Needles

When looking to access narrow and delicate veins, or those located in hard-to-reach areas, shorter-length butterfly needles can be a great choice. These angled entry needles offer plastic wings for better handling and accurate placement on the vein while helping reduce any pain caused by the procedure.

Needle size should always be taken into account depending upon factors such as the patient’s vein condition & size, the volume of medication injected, etc., with phlebotomists taking preferences into consideration when deciding what is best suited.

Collecting blood from children infants and the elderly can especially benefit from using butterfly needles due to their short-length design which helps minimize discomfort during sample collection.

Best Practices for Phlebotomists

Phlebotomists must take into account the size of patients and the type of procedure they are performing when selecting a needle. To guarantee patient safety and comfort during any blood collection or IV insertion, these best practices should be followed by practitioners:

The right choice of the needle needs to match both aspects mentioned above. Whether it is for sample taking or other processes related to blood handling. By making sure that needles used meet such requirements, health professionals can ensure optimal performance as well as the patient’s peace of mind throughout the process.

Choosing the Right Needle

When selecting a needle for venipuncture, it is essential to take into account the patient’s age and medical history. The gauge size of the chosen needle should also be considered in order to determine its compatibility with the vein at hand as well as its potential blood flow rate.

Gauge sizes vary based on factors such as vein size and condition, and comfort level of the patient or procedure requirements. It may be helpful to assess these criteria prior to settling upon an appropriate choice that meets all necessary requirements while ensuring maximum comfort for each individual throughout this process.

Proper Needle Insertion Techniques

To ensure secure and comfortable blood collection, proper guidelines for inserting needles must be followed by phlebotomists.

Butterfly needles require the pinching of skin at a 30-45º angle to fully insert it into fatty tissue or subcutaneous area. The winged infusion set should then be prepped up before proceeding with locating the veins in an arm. Grasping its wings would lead to introducing the butterfly device’s needle into one’s vein between a 10 to 45-degree angle.

Conversely, straight needles need appropriate verification regarding their fitting position prior to engaging them during intravenous insertion procedures as well as drawing blood from patients using them.


By choosing the right needles and following recommended guidelines for use, phlebotomists can ensure both safety and comfort during blood collection or IV insertion procedures.

Compared to straight ones, butterfly needles bring many benefits such as enhanced control over precision in venipuncture techniques and minimized pain levels for patients while also being better suited for their delicate veins. There are some drawbacks too including slower extraction times plus increased costs overall than traditional options have.

Further Reading

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the disadvantage of using a butterfly needle?

Using a butterfly needle comes with an increased risk of needlesticks, which could lead to the transmission of infectious diseases. This can create discomfort for patients and the possibility that another sample will have to be drawn – an unpleasant experience overall.

Hence, it is important to consider the implications before opting for this type of needle when taking blood samples.

What is the advantage of using a butterfly needle?

Using butterfly needles for veins that are located close to the skin’s surface can help in making blood draws or IV infusions less painful. The small needle size of these specialized needles decreases profuse bleeding, while still supplying efficient access into a vein. Needles of this type allow successful and safe extractions during any kind of procedure involving an intravenous application.

Why do phlebotomists use butterfly needles?

Butterfly needles are uniquely designed devices commonly used for drawing blood and administering intravenous medication due to their small size, shallow angle insertion, and winged tubing that allows greater flexibility.

Butterfly needles are popular as they are able to access superficial veins close to the skin more easily and are less painful for patients.

What are the main components of a butterfly needle?

A butterfly needle consists of a hollow, sharpened tip with plastic wings for stability and is designed to attach securely to a syringe or tube holder.

What factors should phlebotomists consider when selecting the appropriate needle for a patient?

Phlebotomists should consider factors like vein size, condition, patient comfort, and procedure requirements when selecting a needle for blood collection or IV insertion.