Administrating Insulin and Insulin Analogues

Insulin Needles


Insulin needlesNeedle technology has changed remarkably over the past two decades. Many years ago insulin needles were large, often blunt and were kept immersed in surgical spirits to ensure they were free of germs. The result was a very painful injection which has lead to the popular belief that insulin injections are painful!

What are the different makes of needles available?

There are four manufacturers who supply needles for the UK market. Becton Dickinson (BD Microfine needles), Disetronic (Penfine), Owen Mumford (Unifine Pentips) and NovoNordisk (Novofine needles). The needles are generally interchangeable and may be used with all the available pens with the exception of the OptipenPro pen.

What are the different sizes of needles available?

Needles vary in length and guage. Generally the higher the gauge the thinner the needle is. A 31G needle is therefore thinner than a 28 G needle.

There are five available lengths 5mm, 6mm, 8mm (5/16“), 12 mm and 12.7 (1/2”) mm. There are four different gauges being 28g, 29G, 30G and 31 G.

Which size should I use?

Your Diabetes Specialist Nurse will advise you on which needle would suit your requirements. In general more obese individuals would require a longer needle. The short needles do not require you to pick up a fold of skin when injecting.

How do I attach the needle to the pen device?

Needle in sterile package

Above: Needle in sterile package

Peel off cover exposing hub of needle

Above: Peel off cover exposing hub of needle

Attach pen to needle and remove cover

Above: Attach pen to needle and remove cover

Is a shorter needle better?

Not necessarily. Some overweight patients have experienced increased blood glucose levels using a shorter pen needle.

Can I re-use the needle?

Insulin needles are disposable. Use a new needle for each injection. Because the new insulin needles are so fine they are not suitable for repeated use.

Do I leave the needle attached to the pen?

This is best avoided. When going from a warm environment to a cooler place the insulin may contract and air can be drawn into the cartridge. As a general rule, attach a fresh needle before your injection and discard immediately after.

Dispose of your needles safely!

A sharps bin

A sharps bin

Always dispose of your used needles carefully. It is your responsibility to ensure your used needles are disposed in a safe manner. Use a sharps bin for this purpose or use a needle clipper.

Ask your practice nurse or local authority about safe disposal of sharps bins and used needles. Your surgery may be willing to provide a sharps bin and also agree to dispose of your sharps bin when full.

Table of insulin needles and Prescription codes





Prescribing (PIP) code

Novo Nordisk


28 G

12 mm


30 G

8 mm


31 G

6 mm


Becton Dickinson

BD Microfine

29 G

12.7 mm


31 G

8 mm


31 G

5 mm




29 G

12 mm


29 G

10 mm


31 G

8 mm


31 G

6 mm


Owen Mumford

Unifine Pentips

29 G

12 mm


30 G

8 mm



6 mm


Dr Nishan Wijenaike
Consultant Diabetologist
West Suffolk Diabetes Service
October 2003