What Is IV Therapy?

Intravenous (IV) therapy, or IV infusion, is a way to give a person medicine or fluids directly into a vein. It requires using a needle or catheter (tube) that is inserted into the vein. IV therapy can be used to treat many different medical conditions.

IV therapy

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Conditions Treated 

You may need IV therapy for different conditions, such as: 

  • Dehydration (loss of body fluids without adequate replacement) 
  • Malnutrition (nutrient deficiencies)
  • Drug or alcohol dependence
  • Cancer (to administer chemotherapy)
  • Autoimmune disorders (conditions in which the immune system mistaken attacks the body's own tissues) 
  • Infections and other diseases 

Process 

You usually get IV therapy in a clinical setting, including: 

  • Hospitals
  • Infusion centers
  • Physician's offices
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Urgent care clinics

You may be able to have IV therapy at home. A visiting nurse or other healthcare provider will either administer the IV therapy in your home or teach you how to do it.

The IV therapy process starts with a healthcare professional inserting a needle attached to a small tube into a vein in your arm. The small tube is connected to an IV bag that has either fluids or liquid medications. The solution from the IV bag enters your bloodstream through the vein. The IV line is attached to an automated pump or adjustable valve.

You will be monitored during the procedure. A healthcare professional may check to make sure the needle stays inserted, and the flow of liquid from the IV bag is correct. 

The process can take 30 minutes or longer, depending on the type of IV fluids or medications you receive. Once the IV bag is empty, the healthcare professional removes the needle from your arm. 

Who Does It? 

Usually, a nurse or other trained healthcare professional performs IV therapy. In some cases, you may be able to administer the IV therapy yourself at home after receiving training. Your caregivers or loved ones may also be trained to give you IV therapy.

Types 

There are different types of IV therapy, including:

Uses 

You may need IV therapy if you cannot take oral medications or medications are not available in an oral form. In addition, some medicine is more effective and works faster if it is delivered directly to your bloodstream through a vein. An IV also allows for the medicine to be delivered at a controlled pace instead of all at once. 

How to Prepare  

To prepare for IV therapy, you can: 

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. 
  • Make sure your arm is easy to access and not restricted by clothes or jewelry.
  • Bring something to read or listen to during the IV therapy.

Outcomes/Recovery 

You may need multiple IV therapy treatments depending on your medical condition and other health factors. Your doctor will discuss how often you will receive infusions.

Possible complications from IV therapy include: 

  • Collapsed vein
  • Infection
  • Inflammation of the vein 
  • Swelling of the vein that causes a blood clot 
  • Air embolism (air bubbles enter a vein) 

Summary 

Intravenous, or IV, therapy is a way to deliver fluids or medicines into your vein. You may have this procedure in a clinical setting or at home. IV therapy can be used to treat many medical conditions, including dehydration and malnutrition. 

A Word From Verywell

You may need IV therapy for different reasons. It is important to discuss all of your concerns with a healthcare provider and get answers to your questions before the procedure. You may want to ask about any possible risks and complications. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a common type of IV therapy?

    IV therapy for dehydration is common and includes a mixture of salts (electrolytes) and water. You may become dehydrated from illness or not drinking enough fluids and require this IV treatment.

  • Does IV therapy hurt?

    You may feel some pain when the needle for IV therapy is inserted into your vein. You should not feel any pain after this.

  • How long does one session of IV therapy last?

    The length of time for IV therapy can vary depending on the type of medication you get. In general, most infusions last 30 minutes to an hour.

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2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. IV treatment at home.

  2. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Home infusion therapy services.