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Ampoule vs. Vial: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 24, 2023
An ampoule is a small sealed glass container for a single use of a medication, while a vial is a small bottle that can be resealed, used for storing liquids, especially pharmaceuticals.

Key Differences

Ampoules are typically made of glass, designed to hold a small amount of liquid, usually for a single use. They are hermetically sealed and opened by snapping off the neck. Vials, on the other hand, are small bottles made of glass or plastic, with a stopper or screw-cap, allowing them to be opened and resealed.
Ampoules are commonly used in healthcare for sterile solutions, especially for injections, ensuring the integrity of the medication. Vials, in contrast, are versatile containers used for storing a variety of liquids, including medications, samples, and solutions, and can be used multiple times.
An ampoule typically holds a smaller volume and is intended for a single use, ensuring sterility. Vials have a broader range of sizes and can be used multiple times, making them suitable for medications requiring multiple doses.
The opening of an ampoule requires breaking the glass neck, which is a one-time process, while vials are designed with resealable caps or stoppers, facilitating repeated access to the contents.
In pharmaceutical use, ampoules are ideal for preserving the purity and shelf life of certain medications, especially those sensitive to air or contaminants. Vials are more commonly used for medications that require multiple doses or for longer-term storage.

Comparison Chart


Usually glass
Glass or plastic


Hermetically sealed, single-use
Can be resealed, multiple uses

Opening Method

Neck snapped off
Cap or stopper removed


Generally small, for single doses
Variable, often larger than ampoules

Use in Pharmaceuticals

Ideal for sensitive medications requiring purity
Suited for multi-dose medications and samples

Ampoule and Vial Definitions


A small sealed glass container for a single dose of medication.
The nurse prepared the injection by breaking the neck of the ampoule.


A versatile container for storing essential oils, cosmetics, or chemicals.
The essential oil blend was mixed and stored in a small vial for use.


A tiny bottle-like container, often used for samples or in cosmetic industry.
She applied the serum from the cosmetic ampoule to her face.


A resealable container often used in medical settings for multi-dose medications.
The vaccine doses were stored in separate vials in the refrigerator.


A glass vessel used to store a chemical compound or biological culture in a sterile environment.
The scientist stored the bacterial culture in an ampoule for later study.


A container used for samples in scientific research, often with a stopper.
He labeled the vial containing the collected water sample.


A container for preserving a sample intact, especially for scientific tests.
The environmental sample was sealed in an ampoule for analysis.


A small bottle typically used for storing liquids, particularly pharmaceuticals.
The doctor filled the syringe with medicine from the vial.


A vessel used in laboratories for containing small amounts of substances.
The chemist measured the reactants into an ampoule for the experiment.


A miniature glass or plastic bottle for holding small quantities of liquid.
She carefully placed the perfume in a decorative vial.


A hermetically sealed vial made of glass or plastic that contains a sterile medicinal solution or a powder that is usually made into a solution for subcutaneous, intramuscular, or intravenous injection.


A small container, usually with a closure, used especially for liquids.


A small hermetically sealed vial, often used to contain a sterile solution suitable for injection.


To put or keep in or as if in a vial.


Same as ampule.


A glass vessel or bottle, especially a small tube-shaped bottle used to store medicine, perfume or other chemicals.


A small bottle that contains a drug (especially a sealed sterile container for injection by needle)


(transitive) To put or keep in, or as in, a vial.


A small bottle, usually of glass; a little glass vessel with a narrow aperture intended to be closed with a stopper; as, a vial of medicine.
Take thou this vial, being then in bed,And this distilled liquor drink thou off.


To put in a vial or vials.


A small bottle that contains a drug (especially a sealed sterile container for injection by needle)


Can a vial be reused?

Yes, vials are designed to be resealable and can be used multiple times.

How do you open an ampoule?

By snapping off the glass neck, usually with a protective cloth or device.

Can ampoules hold solid materials?

They are primarily designed for liquids, though technically they can contain solids.

What is an ampoule used for?

It's used for storing a single dose of medication, typically in a sterile environment.

Are vials only made of glass?

No, they can be made of glass or plastic.

Are ampoules disposable?

Yes, ampoules are intended for single use and are disposable.

Is it safe to break an ampoule?

Yes, with proper technique and safety measures, it's safe to open an ampoule.

Are vials airtight?

They can be airtight if sealed properly with a stopper or screw-cap.

What sizes do vials come in?

Vials come in a variety of sizes, from small to relatively large.

Do vials need to be stored in a special way?

They should be stored according to the contents they hold, often in a cool, dry place.

Can ampoules be used for oral medications?

They are generally used for injectable medications, but it's possible for oral use.

Can you sterilize a vial for reuse?

Yes, vials made of certain materials can be sterilized and reused.

Do ampoules protect against UV light?

Some ampoules are made of tinted glass to protect contents from UV light.

Are there eco-friendly vials?

Yes, there are eco-friendly options made of recyclable or biodegradable materials.

Are vials safe for carrying in travel?

Yes, if sealed properly, they are safe and convenient for travel.

Can vials be customized?

Yes, they can be customized in size, material, and labeling.

Are ampoules expensive?

The cost varies, but they are generally not expensive.

Can vials be used for freezing liquids?

Yes, if made of suitable material, they can be used for freezing.

Is the glass of an ampoule recyclable?

In most cases, yes, but it depends on local recycling guidelines.

Do ampoules require special tools to open?

No special tools are required, but safety devices are recommended.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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