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Discharge Instructions: Giving Yourself an Intramuscular (IM) Injection in the Thigh

Your doctor has prescribed a medication that must be given by intramuscular (IM) injection. IM injections use a needle and syringe to deliver medication to large muscles in your body. They are usually given in the thigh, hip, or upper arm.

You were shown how to perform an IM injection in the hospital. If you did not receive an instruction sheet covering those general steps, ask for one. This sheet reminds you or your caregiver how to give an IM injection in the thigh area. Injections in the thigh area are also called vastus lateralis injections.Outline front view of lower body, hip, and thigh with pelvic and leg bones showing. Hand with fingers spread is palm down on front of thigh where leg meets body. Dotted line around rectangle below hand and above knee, towards side of leg.


Name of your medication:


Amount per injection:


Times per day: 


Getting ready

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after all IM injections.

  • Prepare your medication as you were shown by your doctor or nurse.

Locate an injection site on your leg

  • Think of your thigh as a large rectangle. Once you have identified the 4 sides, you may give an IM injection in several spots inside the imaginary rectangle.

  • Place the palm of your hand against the front of the thigh where it meets the groin. (If injecting into your right thigh, use your right hand. If injecting into your left thigh, use your left hand.) The area just below your hand is the top of the rectangle.

  • Next, place your palm over the top of your knee. The area just above your hand is the bottom of the rectangle.

  • Next, draw an imaginary line down the center of the top of your thigh. This is one of the sides of the rectangle.

  • Draw another imaginary line along the outside of your thigh. This is the other side of the rectangle.

  • Now imagine a line going down the center of your rectangle (vertically from your groin to your knee, not across from side to side). Anywhere along this line is the best place to give the injection.

Prepare the site

Prepare the site as you were shown by your doctor or nurse. See the general instruction sheet on giving yourself an IM injection. If you did not receive this sheet, ask for one.

  • Stretch the skin tight.

  • Hold the syringe like a dart. Insert the needle at a right (90°) angle to your skin.

  • Give no more than 4 ml (or cc) of medication in this site. If the prescribed dose is more than 4 ml, you may need to split the medication and give two injections in different sites.

  • Remove the needle and syringe outward away from the body.

  • Release the skin.

Clean up

  • Dispose of the materials as you were shown by your doctor or nurse.

  • Wash your hands.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.


When to seek medical care

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Problems that keep you from giving yourself the injection

  • Needle that breaks off in the injection site

  • Medication injected into the wrong area

  • Bleeding at the injection site that won’t stop

  • Severe pain, rash, or swelling at the injection site

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or chills



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