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Blood Abscesses

I have already written two articles on abscesses (Abscesses and More on Abscesses), you would think I wouldn't have anymore to discuss. Unfortunately, I do. This is because I received some e-mail from a friend who mentioned that one should never inject blood into a muscle as this will likely cause an abscess. This annoyed me. "I'm Dr. H for Christ's sake!" I thought. "I know that this is one of the easiest ways to get an abscess.

So I thought, "I'll show her!" And I searched the articles I had written online. Nope. I didn't talk about this issue there. So I did a search of the whole site. Not there either. Then I checked the books. Nope! This is a major over-sight on my part, especially considering what a terrible threat I know abscesses to be.

The Problem

Anything that obstructs the natural process of moving nutrients and wastes through the body can cause an abscess. This is because the very transport mechanisms that are stopped are the ones needed to remove the obstruction. So the obstruction--deprived of nutrients and waste disposal festers and becomes an abscess. This can cause the obstruction to grow--causing more of the body to be deprived of the nutrients it needs. The extreme results are limb loss and death.

The Cause

Blood is not a single thing--instead, it is a goop. When it is injected into muscle tissue, it tends to stagnate. Why? You might ask. Aren't blood cells running all around the body? Well, yes and no. Mostly, blood moves through veins and arteries. White blood cells, more than anything else, move through tissue as part of their primary purpose of fighting disease. Red blood cells (even though they are much smaller than white blood cells) do not move through tissue at all well. And the goop? It moves like you would expect goop to move: poorly.

So injecting blood into muscle tissue is something like injecting mayonnaise. It doesn't matter that it is your blood you are injecting. It is in the wrong place and therefore it is foreign matter doing what it always does: gumming things up.

Prevention

A guy goes into a doctor. He says, "Doctor, every time I inject blood into a muscle I get an abscess". The doctor looks at him seriously and says, "Then don't inject blood into your muscle." (Sorry for that joke, but I just flew in from Miami and boy are my arms tired.)

It seems pretty stupid to tell people the best way to avoid abscesses is to only inject into veins. They aren't injecting into muscle on purpose--especially if they get blood in their syringe. So I'm not going to mention this. There are really only two things a user can do to protect against a blood abscess.

  1. Use as small a pull-back as possible. This will limit the amount of blood that eventually gets injected.
  2. Once blood is mixed with the syringe solution, empty it into a spoon and re-filter through a clean cotton. Some users suggest lightly cooking the solution to coagulate the blood. I'm not sold on this procedure, but it may be a good idea.

Conclusions

Blood abscesses are usually a sign that your veins are in bad shape. Consider: (1) Looking to other parts of your body for fresh veins; (2) Switching to IM or subcutaneous injection; (3) Switching to smoking or snorting; (4) stopping (using or just IVing) for a while.

by Dr. H © 2002
Last Modified: 10 January 2004


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