Skip to main content

Syringe drivers

Information leaflet on syringe drivers

This leaflet provides information about syringe drivers.  If this is the first time you have heard of a syringe driver this leaflet will answer some of the questions you may have.  If you have questions that we haven’t answered there is space at the back of the leaflet for you to write these down.  You can then discuss them with your nurse or doctor.  Contact telephone numbers are also provided at the end of the leaflet.

What is a syringe driver?

A syringe driver is a battery-powered machine.  It is small enough to be carried around in a pocket or a small bag (which we can provide).  

The syringe driver is designed so that your medicines may be given to you continuously over a 24 hour period.  

Why am I having a syringe driver?

There are a number of reasons why you may be having a syringe driver. These include:

  • If you are feeling sick and are unable to take medicines by mouth, or if you have problems swallowing.
  • To help ease symptoms such as pain, that may not be helped by tablets.  By using a syringe driver your doctor can work out the best dose of painkillers to use to give you relief.  Once this has been found, you can stop the syringe driver and take this dose in tablet or liquid form.  
  • To avoid having lots of injections which can be uncomfortable and stressful.
  • It is a safe and easy way to give your medicine continuously. 

How does the syringe driver work?

Syringe drivers are generally very reliable and work in the following way:

  • The syringe driver uses a 9v alkaline battery.
  • It is set to run at a certain rate which is prescribed by your doctor.
  • The syringe driver empties slowly over a set period, usually 24 hours.
  • Every few minutes it delivers a small amount of your medicine.  It is normal for the syringe driver to make a quiet whirring noise when this happens. 
  • A yellow light will flash on the right hand side of the syringe driver.  If it stops then the battery needs to be changed.  Your nurse will check this regularly.
  • There is an alarm on the syringe driver.  This makes a constant piercing noise for about 5 seconds if it stops working.  This usually only happens when the syringe is empty or the line becomes blocked.  Do not panic if the alarm sounds.  Please tell your nurse if this happens.

How and where will it be attached?

Your syringe driver is attached to a fine needle which is placed just under your skin.  The needle may be placed in the top of your arm, leg, chest or your stomach.  It is held in place with a clear waterproof dressing.  A syringe containing your medicines is fitted into the syringe driver.

The needle can stay in place for several days.  It will be checked regularly in case the area becomes red, swollen, sore or uncomfortable.  If this happens the needle site will be changed.  Please tell your nurse if the site feels sore.

How long will I need the syringe driver?

You may need to stay on the syringe driver for a few days or a few weeks.  Your doctor will discuss this with you.

Will it change the way I live?

The syringe driver should not affect the things you are able to do.  You can eat and drink as normal. You should check with your doctor if it is safe for you to have alcohol with your medicines.

It is important that you do not get the syringe driver wet.   You can bath or shower but you need to keep the syringe driver out of the water.  Some people wrap it in a plastic bag whilst showering, you can discuss this with your nurse.  You 
should not swim with your syringe driver.

What about going abroad? 

If you want to go abroad with your syringe driver please discuss this with your doctor or nurse.  Some medicines may not react well in certain climates.  We can show your relative how to care for your syringe driver whilst you’re away.

What type of syringe driver will be used?

There are several types of syringe drivers.  At Velindre Cancer Centre we use the blue label type.  

If you go home with a blue label type of syringe driver your district nurse will change it to the type they use.  Your district nurse should arrange for the blue label syringe driver to be returned to Velindre.  But if not, please return it to us as soon as possible so that somebody else can use it.   

How often is the syringe driver checked?

Whilst you are in hospital we will check your syringe driver 15 minutes after it has been set up, then on every drug round, which is about every 4 hours. 

When you are at home a district nurse will visit you to refill the syringe.  This will usually be once every 24 hours and will be at the same time each day.  You should also check the syringe driver yourself every few hours in the day.  You should ask your district nurse what to look out for. 

What if the syringe driver isn’t helping my symptoms?

Please tell your nurse or doctor if you still have pain or feel sick when on your syringe driver.  

Further questions I would like to ask









Contact telephone numbers

Further information and advice is available from:

Velindre Cancer Centre                 029 2061 5888

Ask for First Floor ward or the Active Support Unit

You can also speak to the staff of Rhosyn Day Unit between 8am – 5pm Monday - Friday

This information leaflet has been written by health professionals.  Sources of information include ‘Me and My Driver’ information leaflet produced by Sims Graseby Medical limited.

The leaflet has been approved by doctors, nurses and patients.  It is reviewed and updated every two years.

Plain English Society logo