Cannulas vs. Needles: What’s The Difference In Cosmetic Treatments?


While a nurse seeking a vein to draw some blood may find exactly what she needs with the sharp point of a hollow needle, that puncturing tool is not ideal for dermatologists administering cosmetic treatments, such as the dermal filler Juvederm®. Los Angeles-area board-certified dermatologist Dr. Derek Jones, who pioneered facial contouring techniques using a device known as a cannula, is seeing increased interest in patients who prefer that blunt-tipped instrument to the traditional needle. Cannulas have been shown to improve both the patient experience and results.


First, a look at the needle: The sharp point is specifically designed to pierce, sliding as a wedge below the surface of the skin. Unfortunately, the epidermis is not the only thing it may penetrate. The tip can push through veins and arteries alike, leading to bleeding that causes bruises to appear in the treated area. Even more serious, a puncture could lead to the accidental injection of product into the vein itself in what is known as vascular injection—a condition that can cause significant complications.


Though accessing a vessel is an integral part of many medical procedures, it is not a part of cosmetic treatments. This can present a challenge, since many modern fillers work best when they are delivered into deeper tissues, necessitating that physicians push the tip past—not through—any number of pieces of the body’s circulatory system.


A cannula avoids this problem by eliminating the sharp point, trading it instead for a blunt, rounded tip. Obviously, such a device cannot enter the skin on its own—at least, not without significant effort on the part of the physician and significant pain on the part of the patient—so a small hole must first be made with a needle. That needle, however, will go no farther in, since its sole purpose is to prepare the way for a cannula.


Now with access below the skin’s surface, the physician can insert the cannula, moving it to the desired depth. As it encounters veins and arteries, they are merely pushed to one side or the other. This reduces the risk of puncture-related complications, as well as allows for better outcomes since bruising and swelling are minimized.


The blunt tip also serves as a “sensing” tool, since the injector can feel when it meets an obstruction. Navigation above, below, or around a barrier is easily accomplished by angling the cannula, giving the administering physician considerable more control than when using a traditional needle. Since the path of a cannula can be determined in such a sophisticated way, it can be used to access multiple areas through the single entry point.


Finally, cannulas tend to be longer than needles, so the product can be delivered in deeper levels for more nuanced, subtle, and customized results. The length also serves to further its reach from the initial injection site, reducing the total number of punctures needed to achieve ideal results.


Since Juvederm® is a dermal filler used primarily on the face, control and precision are prized qualities in a delivery device. The cross-linked hyaluronic gel is smooth and ideally administered into carefully targeted areas in small, carefully planned amounts.


Juvederm® comes in a variety of forms, with specific members of the family of fillers intended for adding volume to the apple of the cheeks, softening moderate to severe nasolabial folds, or adding volume to better define lips or smooth out small lines that form around the mouth. Over time—anywhere from months to two years, depending on the filler—the gel will be absorbed into the body.


Dr. Derek Jones and the Skin Care & Laser Physicians of Beverly Hills team use cannulas for injecting dermal fillers—a technique for which their patients regularly voice appreciation. Call 310-246-0495 or send a message online to learn more about cannulas, Juvederm®, and other advanced cosmetic skincare strategies and products.