Intravenous (IV) therapy is a way of administering fluids directly into a vein. The procedure enables water, medication, blood, or nutrients to access the body faster through the circulatory system.

IV therapy is the most common invasive procedure that medical professionals use in healthcare. This article discusses its uses, procedures, benefits, risks, and more.

An IV drip that doctors use for IV therapy.Share on Pinterest
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Healthcare professionals can use an IV to deliver medication, vitamins, blood, or other fluids to those who need them.

Doctors can provide IV therapy through an IV line directly into a vein. This bypasses the gastric system so the body can take on more fluids quickly.

During the procedure, a healthcare professional will insert a cannula into a person’s vein, usually in the crook of their arm. They can then attach a tube with an IV bag containing fluids, which then drip down the tube directly into the vein.

The fluids or nutrition in IV therapies are specific to each person requiring the treatment.

IV therapy can treat:

Doctors use the technique as a fast-acting way to feed essential fluids into the body’s system.

IV vitamin therapy can administer a high concentration of minerals and vitamins directly into the bloodstream rather than through the stomach.

A mix known as the Myers’ cocktail includes high doses of vitamins B and C, calcium, and magnesium. A medical professional dilutes the vitamins with sterile water.

They then put the fluid into an IV bag with a tube attached to the cannula.

Other types of IV vitamin therapies include:

  • IV magnesium sulfate for acute asthma: A 2018 study found this treatment to be more beneficial than using a nebulizer, a device for inhalation medications through a face mask or mouthpiece, for children with acute asthma.
  • IV selenium for acute respiratory distress syndrome: This can provide help for critically ill people who need mechanical ventilation.
  • IV vitamin C for cancer: Healthcare professionals may administer high doses of vitamin C to those living with cancer. However, researchers have not proven this treatment effective with studies.

A 2020 study concluded that there was insufficient evidence to recommend the use of multivitamin IV therapy outside of medical settings. However, more research is necessary.

Q:

Is it a good idea to have IV vitamin therapy at home?

Anonymous

A:

Unless recommended by your physician, daily requirements of vitamins can be easily obtained through a well-balanced diet that includes multiple servings of vegetables and fruits. There are very few true reasons to require IV vitamin therapy, the most common being a history of small intestine removal due to illness, cancer, or trauma, which will hamper the absorption of edible nutrients.

Darragh O’Carroll, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Below is what happens during a typical IV therapy procedure:

  1. Before the procedure, a healthcare professional will choose a vein where they insert the cannula. This may be in the forearm, wrist, the back of the hand, or the top of the foot. If a vein is difficult to find, they may use an ultrasound scan to guide the needle.
  2. Once they have found a vein, the healthcare professional will sanitize the area with a wipe before inserting a fine needle attached to the cannula. They may use adhesive tape to hold the cannula in place.
  3. Once the cannula is in place, healthcare professionals will use tubing to connect it to the IV.
  4. During the infusion, a healthcare professional will regularly check the cannula to ensure that the IV is flowing properly and there is no pain or swelling in the area.
  5. Once the IV therapy infusion is complete, the healthcare professional will disconnect the cannula from the tubing and remove it from the vein.
  6. They will then apply pressure over the insertion wound to help slow any bleeding. They may dress the area with a cotton bud and adhesive tape.

For procedures that require a regular IV, healthcare professionals will leave the cannula in place.

The benefits of using IV therapy in a healthcare setting include:

  • Speed: By inserting medications, nutrients, and fluids directly into the vein, healthcare professionals can help a patient recover quickly. This may be particularly useful if the person needs fluids or electrolytes quickly, such as during severe dehydration.
  • Efficiency: IV therapy bypasses the gastric system, so the body can absorb more fluids without them having to pass through the digestive system. This makes it easier to provide medication to the target organs quickly.
  • Convenience: Once a medical professional inserts a cannula, it can stay there for several days. This means they can provide regular treatment without repeatedly inserting a needle to deliver more fluids.

IV vitamin therapy

There are no studies that support the claims of benefits from IV vitamin therapy. Most studies look at the effects on people in medical facilities with serious conditions.

A 2020 study examining IV multivitamin use in both outpatient and medical settings concluded that there was insufficient evidence to recommend their use outside medical settings. The authors concluded that more research was necessary.

Although IV therapy is generally safe and effective, it can cause side effects. These may include:

  • damage to blood vessels
  • bleeding from the site of insertion
  • swelling in the area
  • inflammation of the veins if the IV is present for a long time
  • bruising at the site of insertion

According to a 2020 study, complications of IV therapy may include:

  • allergic reaction to the adhesive tape that secures the IV in place
  • hematoma, or swelling from clotted blood under the skin
  • the formation of a blood clot
  • cellulitis, or swelling in deep layers of the skin
  • skin necrosis, or premature death of skin cells
  • the development of an abscess

More extreme types of complications after IV therapy usually occur after 3 or more days of having IV insertion.

The risks of complications rise if a person has not completed full IV insertion training or if this is not a procedure they carry out regularly. For this reason, a medical setting with trained professionals is the best place to receive IV therapy.

Below are answers to common questions about IV therapy.

Can you do IV therapy at home?

Some services offer IV vitamin therapy at home. However, IV therapy comes with risks and complications, and it is best for a person to only undergo IV therapy with trained medical professionals when they need it.

A person should always consult a doctor or other healthcare professional before booking an at-home medical procedure.

How long does IV therapy stay in your system?

Fluids that enter the body through an IV may take effect quicker than if a person has consumed them orally. However, fluids, such as water, vitamins, and medication, should exit the body naturally, depending on the body’s digestive system. This may take a longer or shorter time, depending on the individual.

IV therapy is a way of administering blood, medication, water, nutrients, and other fluids directly into the bloodstream via the veins. It allows medical professionals to administer fluids to a patient quickly and efficiently.

Although it is common, IV therapy is an invasive procedure that carries some risks. Side effects may include bruising, bleeding, and swelling at the insertion site.

It is best to receive IV therapy in a hospital setting involving trained medical professionals.