PTCB Test Prep Therapeutics

Syringes and Sterile Compounding!

Apr 14th, 2023
syringes sterile compounding

Compounding and the PTCB Exam

Compounding is an important subject on the PTCB exam – and syringe needles form a core part of any understanding of this subject.

Technicians may be asked questions related to compounding on several different knowledge domains of the PTCB exam, including:

  • Medications
  • Pharmacy Math
  • Federal Requirements

Broadly speaking, there are two types of compounding: sterile and non-sterile compounding.

Some medicines need to be prepared in a sterile environment. This reduces the risk of medicinal contamination. Therefore, sterile compounding is highly regulated. That’s because the risk to the patient is high if any contaminants are found in the finished product.

Compounding is the act of preparing a patient-specific product – for example: an intravenous or parenteral product that must be prepared in a sterile environment. Technicians should be aware that USP 797 details the standards that must be adhered to when undertaking the processes that underpin sterile compounding.

Part of that compounding knowledge involves syringes and needles. Pharmacy technicians are expected to know the structure and function of the various parts of the syringe and needle, as well as how to prepare these syringes when required – and to do so safely and according to protocol.

What is a Syringe?

A syringe is a pre-packaged sterile tool that contains neither pyrogen nor endotoxin.

  • Pyrogen – substances produced by bacteria that can induce fever.
  • Endotoxin – toxins released from bacteria as they disintegrate.

Syringes are available in a multitude of sizes. Most syringes available today typically range between 1 mL – 60 mL.

Below, we have put together the structure of both a syringe and needle:

The primary elements of the syringe include the:

  • plunger – pressed down for medication to flow through the barrel.
  • barrel – graduations along the barrel for accurate measurement.
  • syringe tip – that part which connects to the syringe via the hub.
  • flange – that part of the syringe where the barrel is inserted.

The needle is separate to the syringe.

  • The needle is connected to the syringe via the hub (covering the tip) – and, for safety reasons, is packaged within a needle protective cover.
  • The bevel is the very tip of the needle, whereas the lumen is the hollow bore that forms the inside of the needle through which medication flows.

Note that syringes may be used with or without needles.

For example – syringes without needles are effective for the oral administration of some medications for some patients. Syringes with needles can be used for parenteral administration, such as intravenous administration.

Practical Understanding of Syringe Needles

The best way to prepare for syringes and sterile compounding of the PTCB test is to practically work with syringes and needles.

However, if this is something you have not yet worked with, you should only do so under guided instruction – from either a tutor, pharmacist, or qualified pharmacy technician. With needles come considerable risk – including the risk of needle-stick injury.

Learning the correct and safe protocol for handling syringe needles is therefore essential practical and professional knowledge for every technician.

Take Home Message

Sterile and non-sterile compounding forms a core part of the pharmacy technician exam. It’s also a large subject, involving considerable study. Here, we have zoomed into just one small part of that study – namely, syringes and needles.

We learned about how compounding standards are set out in USP 797; as well as learning the basic structure of both a syringe and needle, as well as the functions of the various parts. We also learned about the differences between pyrogens and endotoxins, and why sterile products must be free from both.

If you found this review helpful, be sure to check back to our PTCB blog for more exclusive study reviews to help you succeed at the pharmacy tech exam. You can also register to become a full member of PTCB Test Prep to gain access to your personal learning dashboard to continue your study.

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PTCB Test Prep Author


Elaine Walker

Elaine joined PTCB Test Prep in 2017, currently serving as the lead product development manager overseeing both course development and quality improvement. Mrs. Walker is a graduate of California State University and has worked as a pharmacy technician for over twenty years – with particular interests in pediatric pharmacy, extemporaneous compounding, and hospital pharmacy. Over the past 8-years, she has helped prepare thousands of students for the PTCB examination.