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4 min read

Incorrect Intramuscular Injection: Vaccine Injected In The Wrong Area

Intramuscular injections are a quick and easy way to administer medication, but they can also be dangerous if not done properly. A bad injection can lead to pain, bruising, swelling, and even infection. So, what are the dangers of an incorrect intramuscular injection?

Let's take a closer look.

What is an Intramuscular Injection (IM)?

An intramuscular injection is a shot that injects medicine directly into a muscle. The injection goes into the deep tissue under the skin. Intramuscular injections are typically used when intravenous injection is not an option because the drug irritates veins, or a suitable vein cannot be located. They are also absorbed faster than subcutaneous injections due to muscle tissue having a greater blood supply compared to the tissue just under skin.


Intramuscular Injection Sites

The objective of intramuscular injection is to directly inject the vaccine into muscle because vaccines are designed to travel through that type of tissue. Why do intramuscular injections hurt? When a person receives a shot, a small amount of liquid is injected into the muscle, which basically stretches the muscle fibers, causing some inflammation. This causes pain and discomfort to the injected arm. However, if the vaccine is injected too low, it might not travel well enough into muscle tissue. On the other hand, injecting it too high may cause shoulder pain due to a condition called shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). If you believe you received an incorrect intramuscular injection, please seek a healthcare professional.

The most common sites for IM injection are:

Arm Deltoid Muscle

The most popular site for vaccine administration, including flu shots, is the deltoid muscle on the upper arm. It’s easy to reach and doesn’t require disrobing. However, if the pharmacist or other medical professional administering the vaccine stands too high above the person receiving it, they might inject it directly into the shoulder joint instead of the muscle tissue surrounding it. Delt injections can cause injuries like bursitis, rotator cuff tears, tendonitis, pain, and damage to the joint itself. 

Thigh Vastus Lateralis Muscle

The thigh muscle location is not traditionally chosen for vaccination shots, but it has become a popular choice for self-administering an injection.

Hip Ventrogluteal Muscle

This website is recommended for anyone seven months or older. The reason being, it's large and has fewer nerves as well as major blood vessels. Since there are less nerves and vessels, the chance of injury during injection is lower.

Buttocks Dorsogluteal Muscles

Gluteal injections were once popular but now injections into the muscles of the buttocks or glute injection site are now discouraged because of the high likelihood of damaging the sciatic nerve. An incorrectly administered shot to the Buttock injection site can cause reduced mobility in leg movement. 


What Happens if an Intramuscular Injection is Administered Incorrectly?

If an IM (intramuscular) injection is too shallow and misses the muscle, it can harm the surrounding tissues. This mistake may cause pain, swelling, or bruising in the area. To avoid these issues, it's important to ensure the injection reaches the muscle.  An incorrectly administered intramuscular injection can cause serious complications, including:

• Infection from the introduction of bacteria into the deep muscle tissue
• Damage to nerve endings and other tissues in the area
• Abscesses (pockets of infection) at the injection site
You must seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these complications.


Can intramuscular injections cause severe damage?

In some cases, an incorrectly administered intramuscular injection can cause severe damage. This is especially true if the needle penetrates a nerve or artery or injects the medication too quickly. Such complications can cause muscle damage, nerve damage, and even paralysis.


What if an intramuscular injection hits a nerve?

If an intramuscular injection hits a nerve, it can cause damage to the nerve. This damage can lead to pain, tingling, weakness, or numbness in the area where the injection was given. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of these symptoms after intramuscular injection.


What happens if intramuscular injection hits bone?

In some cases, the needle can penetrate too deeply into the muscle and hit a bone. An incorrect intramuscular injection could lead to further complications, such as fractures or breaks. Some risks of an intramuscular injection hitting the bone can include the following:

  • Pain and swelling of the area
  • Bruising
  • Infection
  • Muscle damage
  • Nerve damage

What happens if you give an intramuscular injection too high or low?

If an intramuscular injection is too high or low, it can cause complications. Improper injection techniques, such as injections given too high, may not reach the muscle tissue and could lead to pain and discomfort. Injections given too low may penetrate deep into the muscle and cause bruising or bleeding, as well as infection.


Incorrect Intramuscular Injection and SIRVA

Some cases involving an incorrect intramuscular injection have been linked to a condition known as SIRVA (Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration).

This condition is caused when an injection hits a nerve, artery, or bone in the shoulder area. Symptoms can include but are not limited to pain, swelling, and limited range of motion in the affected area.

SIRVA can be permanent and disabling, so it is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms after an intramuscular injection.

For more information on SIRVA, see this page:

SIRVA Treatment, SIRVA Symptoms and Diagnosis


What happens if a shot is given subcutaneously?

A shot given subcutaneously (under the skin) instead of intramuscularly can cause various complications. These include pain, bruising, and infection at the injection site. The medication may also not be absorbed properly, leading to ineffective treatment.


Can I file a lawsuit if I was injected with a flu shot in the wrong spot?

If you were injected with a flu shot in the wrong spot and experienced complications such as SIRVA or nerve damage, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the healthcare provider who administered the injection. Get help from a vaccine lawyer today.

If you or a loved one have experienced complications from an incorrect intramuscular injection, it is important to seek legal help. Our vaccine injury lawyers can advise on your rights and options for filing a lawsuit. A vaccine attorney can also represent you in court and fight for the compensation you may be entitled to.

For any complications with injection method, contact a reputable vaccine lawyer today!


Meet the Author

Paul Brazil - Founding Partner

Paul Brazil is a native of Dunmore, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Dunmore High School. For his undergraduate education, he attended Bloomsburg University where he majored in political science. He then went on to earn his JD from Widener University School of Law. Following graduation from law school, Mr. Brazil worked at a large Philadelphia civil defense firm where he litigated workers’ compensation claims and Heart and Lung Act cases. In 2012, he joined with his coworker Max Muller to form Muller Brazil. 

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