Using Butterfly Needles: A Step by Step Tutorial for Beginners

Butterfly needles are essential tools for medical professionals and students learning about blood draws and IV infusions. They enable comfortable, precise blood collection from patients with small or hard-to-reach veins.

In this comprehensive guide, we explain the basics of working with these instruments and provide step-by-step instructions to ensure successful use in a variety of settings. It’s time to discover all that butterfly needles can do. Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Butterfly needles are designed for blood draws and IV infusions, featuring wings for stability and a thin, hypodermic needle, making them ideal for patients with small veins.
  • Beginners can follow a detailed guide covering disinfection, needle insertion, collecting samples, and aftercare, ensuring a safe and comfortable experience for patients.
  • The article offers quick tips for addressing common issues like vein collapse or slow blood flow, emphasizing the importance of needle size and proper techniques.
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Understanding Butterfly Needles

Butterfly needles, otherwise known as scalp vein sets, are a form of blood collection device that can provide more comfort to patients with small or difficult veins. They have been specially designed for accessing the superficial vessels and thus serve both extraction purposes (e.g., drawing blood) and injections via an intravenous route.

The butterfly needle’s safety is heightened by its design, reducing the risk of accidental needle sticks, and making it a preferred choice among healthcare staff. This article provides comprehensive details about butterfly needles, benefiting readers, especially patients with hard-to-reach veins relying on their safe usage during phlebotomy procedures if other options prove ineffective.

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Components of a Butterfly Needle

The butterfly needle comprises various components, including a thin hypodermic needle, wings for stability during insertion and control in winged infusion procedures, and flexible tubing for enhanced comfort during blood collection or IV infusions, reducing pressure on veins. Transparent tubes connect all these elements together.

Butterfly needles are available in sizes ranging from 18-27 gauges, with shorter ones (21/23 gauges) ideal for blood draws due to lower associated pain. Their usage varies based on length; shorter needles require shallower angles, making them particularly useful for accessing superficial veins in individuals with challenging vessel locations.

The unique features of butterfly needles, including superior maneuverability, contribute to their excellence, especially in terms of accuracy, among other advantages.

Choosing the Right Size

Using the correct size of butterfly needles is crucial for accurate results and minimal patient discomfort during blood draws or IV infusions. Commonly, 21 and 23 gauge needles are used for adults, while smaller gauges (21-25) are suitable for pediatric patients to ensure proper blood flow. Thorough selection of butterfly needle size is essential, taking into account both accuracy and comfort factors.

Preparing for Blood Draw or IV Infusion

Before starting a blood draw or IV infusion with the butterfly needle, certain equipment must be collected and appropriate measures must be taken to prepare the patient. This involves selecting an adequate-sized needle, obtaining any required supplies for drawing blood or infusing fluids, and making sure that the person being treated is as comfortable and relaxed as possible.

Preparation steps before using butterfly needles not only reduce the chances of complications but also enhance the overall experience for everyone involved in care. Essential aspects, such as selecting the right needle size and assembling necessary tubes/IVs, are meticulously considered during the preparation process. This involves choosing materials, ensuring patient relaxation, and covering all aspects from start to finish, contributing to a smoother procedure for blood sample extraction using butterfly needles.

Required Equipment

When doing a blood draw or infusion with the butterfly needle, you need equipment such as a syringe and ETS holder for drawing samples. The collection tubes must be valid when taking specimens of red blood cells from patients.

For an IV infusion, it’s important to have tubing as well as fluids in preparation for this procedure using the same type of needle mentioned earlier (a butterfly one) to successfully collect the needed amount of blood.

Patient Preparation

For a successful infusion or blood draw using the butterfly needle, it is important to have proper patient preparation. It is recommended that they sit in an easy and relaxed posture while determining where exactly on their arm has veins capable of supporting this type of procedure.

To carry out the process correctly, one must cleanse and sterilize with either rubbing alcohol or another sanitizing substance at the site before inserting the needle into place. Make sure you use techniques such as palpation or dependent positioning if locating harder-to-fill veins proves tricky!

Step-by-Step Guide: Using a Butterfly Needle

With a solid understanding of butterfly needle fundamentals and all preparations in place for your patient, equipment, and yourself, let’s delve into performing a blood draw or administering an IV infusion. This step-by-step guide ensures accuracy and comfort for your patients during the process.

As you refine these skills over time and maintain patience, you’ll become adept at working with butterfly needles for both procedures.

Disinfecting the Insertion Site

Prior to inserting a butterfly needle, disinfection of the area is an essential requirement. Clean with either 70% isopropyl alcohol solution or use an available commercially prepared sanitizing wipe. Letting the antiseptic dry completely before continuing on will guarantee full sterilization and reduce contamination risk as much as possible. This meticulous approach is crucial for safety when handling a butterfly needle device to prevent post-insertion infections.

Inserting the Butterfly Needle

Hold the butterfly wings between your thumb and index finger, and use your other hand to pull the patient’s skin around the vein. Slowly insert the needle into this area at a shallow angle of 10-15 degrees until you see blood in the tubing. Attach collection tube if drawing sample or IV bag for fluids then adjust the flow rate as required. Be sure to continuously monitor the patient/needle site during the procedure for any possible problems that may arise.

Collecting Blood Samples or Administering IV Fluids

The butterfly needle is inserted for blood sample collection or IV fluid administration. Attach the required tubes for specimen collection, drawing according to specified requirements. For intravenous infusions, connect tubing from the needle’s connector, set the correct rate per healthcare provider instructions, and monitor for any potential discomfort throughout the treatment process.

Removing the Butterfly Needle and Aftercare

It is essential for both the patient’s health and the safety of healthcare providers that proper aftercare and disposal methods be taken once a butterfly needle or infusion has been utilized. This includes applying pressure at the insertion site to cease any bleeding, disposing of used needles into an appropriate sharps container, and monitoring the individual for signs of complications.

Prompt removal of these needles followed by attentive care can help ensure safe practices in clinics today.

Safely Removing the Needle

To prevent accidents involving the butterfly needle, carefully follow these steps:

Release the tourniquet and gently withdraw the device from the vein. Apply pressure with a clean gauze or cotton ball immediately to stop bleeding. Engage the safety feature, if available, to prevent unintentional pokes or contact with used needles during disposal in sharps containers.

Aftercare and Disposal

Following butterfly needle removal, it’s crucial to provide proper aftercare. This includes cleaning and drying the insertion area with a chlorhexidine/alcohol swab, applying gentle pressure using sterile gauze or a cotton ball for hemostasis, and, if needed, using an adhesive bandage or tape. Patients should closely monitor the site for signs of infection and contact their healthcare provider if uncertain. Disposal of used needles must adhere to local regulations using special sharps containers to ensure safe handling of materials.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

When using butterfly needles, common challenges like vein collapse or difficulty accessing veins can lead to slow blood flow and blockages. To troubleshoot, ensure the right needle size for your situation, avoiding too big for potential tissue damage or too small for difficulty drawing blood. Proper preparation before insertion and minimizing movements during the process are essential to prevent complications and ensure successful sample collection.

Vein Collapse or Difficulty Accessing Veins

When inserting a needle into the vein, ensure that it is placed at an appropriate angle and depth to prevent the potential collapse of vessels. Too much pressure can cause blood leakage causing bruising, pain, and swelling. For more difficult access points, consider palpating or elevating the body part as well as using devices for improved visualization of superficial veins. Drinking water may also help dilate them for easier access.

Slow Blood Flow or Blockages

Issues such as decreased blood circulation or clogging may be the result of an incorrect angle of insertion, improper size for the needle used, and wrong technique. To fix these issues you should ensure that when inserting a needle, it is done so at an adequate depth and appropriate angle.

If need be, switch to using needles with smaller gauges. Consider flushing out any blockages in tubes with saline solution. Always use proper methods advised by healthcare specialists while doing this though.

Optimal flow is crucial to prevent potential difficulties associated with poor needle placement in terms of both size and angles used for administering medication through veins. This ensures proper blood supply and helps avoid medical problems down the line.

Tips for Beginners

If you’re new to working with butterfly needles, here are some helpful tips for a successful blood draw. First and foremost, build your confidence by practicing on a simulated vein or training device before attempting the real thing – this way you become familiarized with how it feels when inserting the needle at an appropriate angle.

Wear gloves while handling these needles to protect both yourself and patients from infections during IV infusion or blood draws. Maintain clear communication with the patient, explaining each step and answering questions to enhance their comfort and cooperation throughout the procedure.

Always adhere to protocols set out by healthcare providers. With practice, one becomes better equipped to use butterfly needles effectively, providing a painless experience for all involved.


With their small, curved design and ability to access even the most difficult veins, butterfly needles are beneficial for both blood collection as well as IV infusion. To ensure a successful experience for patients (while becoming adept in using these specialized tools), it is important to understand the basics of how they work before properly preparing them and following step-by-step guidelines with each use.

Through proper practice combined with adherence to the standard technique, practitioners can offer those requiring care an exceptional service when working with butterflies (as butterfly needles are often referred to).

Further Reading

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the correct order of draw when using a butterfly needle?

When using a butterfly needle, start by drawing and discarding a tube to extract any air within the tubing system before collecting blood or drawing samples from coagulation tubes.

How do you start an IV with a butterfly needle?

The butterfly needle must be inserted at a 10-30 degree angle with its bevel pointing upwards, after disinfecting the skin and putting on a tourniquet. Once in place, gently shake the tube to draw blood into it. Following this step, release the tourniquet and carefully remove the instrument from your patient’s body.

Do you put the bevel up or down on a butterfly needle?

When inserting a butterfly needle into the vein, it must always be done so with its bevel facing upwards. Pointing toward the heart at an angle between 15-30 degrees is critical for successful insertion of this type of needle.

When should you not use a butterfly needle?

When drawing blood, patients with very small veins such as newborns or those having large veins should not use butterfly needles since there is a high risk of hemolysis. Patients need to ensure they are utilizing the proper type and size of needles when extracting their blood for tests.

How do you insert a butterfly needle?

Hold the wings of the butterfly needle with the bevel facing up before inserting. Firmly pinch the skin fold at an angle ranging from 30 to 45 degrees while still holding onto the wings. Gently slide in the syringe until its safety shield disengages with light pressure upon pulling back on it.