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Hitting an artery

How to recognise when you have hit an artery and what to do to prevent further harm.

Here are the main tell-tale signs that you have hit an artery:

  • Pain when you inject
  • Bright red blood that may push back the plunger
  • Bleeding spurts rather than pours
  • Bleeding that may be hard to stop
  • Blood that appears frothy when you draw back

If you miss a vein and hit an artery you can cause a lot of problems. You need to stop the bleeding by:

  • Sliding the needle out and apply pressure for 15-30 minutes
  • Raising the affected area and lying down will help
  • If the bleeding wont stop call for an ambulance
  • Even if you stop the bleeding, it’s best to get checked our by your GP/Harm Reduction Nurse as soon as possible

If you inject into the femoral artery, lie down and apply pressure for at least half an hour. If you are bleeding heavily, get a faster pulse, go pale or feel faint, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance.

If you don’t act fast you could lose fingers, toes or a limb.

Bleeding from an artery can cause death.