Infusion therapy: what it is and what to expect (2023)

Infusion therapy is a procedure in which drugs are administered directly into the bloodstream, usually with a needle and catheter inserted into a vein.

Infusion therapy is required when a patient is unable to take a medication by mouth. It is also a method of delivering drugs in larger or more controlled amounts, such as during cancer chemotherapy or with pain relievers during childbirth.

You may receive infusion therapy at a medical center or at home. Insulin syringes are an example of home infusion therapy.

This article explains the uses, benefits, and possible side effects of the different types of IV therapy.

Infusion therapy: what it is and what to expect (1)

Types of infusion therapy and their uses.

The types of infusion therapy are:

  • Intravenous (i.v.)
  • epidural
  • intramuscular
  • Subcutaneous

Intravenous (i.v.)

In intravenous therapy, drugs or fluids are injected directly into the bloodstream. IV therapy is commonly used for:

  • Keeping fluids in the body after dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting, or surgery
  • Chronic diseases such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy for cancer
  • antibiotic therapy
  • Administration of an anesthetic before the operation.
  • blood transfusions
  • Provide nutrients such as iron and B vitamins.when they are chronically low


An epidural is a type of intravenous therapy that is placed around the spinal nerves in the lower back. Epidurals block the transmission of pain signals from the spine to the brain. An epidural can deliver the following:

  • Analgesia (pain relief)
  • anesthesia
  • Steroids for pain, such as acute back pain

Epidurals are best known for preventing or numbing labor pains, but they can also be used to prevent pain during and after surgery. Epidurals can also help relieve acute pain.


In intramuscular infusion therapy, drugs are introduced into muscle tissue. Applications of intramuscular infusion therapy include:

  • Hormone therapy, such as injections of testosterone or estrogen used to treat cancer
  • antibiotics
  • vaccines
  • Antibodies (immunoglobulins), which are proteins produced by cells to help the immune system fight bacteria, viruses, or other harmful substances.


In subcutaneous infusion therapy, drugs are injected into the fat under the skin. Subcutaneous injection sites include the upper arms, abdomen, thighs, lower back, and buttocks. Subcutaneous therapy includes:

  • insulin therapyfor diabetics
  • opioids to relieve pain
  • Allergy medications such asAdrenaline
  • heparin, a drug used to prevent blood clots

Benefits of infusion therapy

The benefits of infusion therapy include:

  • Fast-acting relief, especially in emergency situations such as after an allergic reaction or during childbirth
  • Medicines for those who cannot take pills by mouth.
  • Administration of larger and/or controlled amounts of medication
  • Intramuscular and subcutaneous injections help drugs stay longer in the body
  • High success rates for multiple conditions

Infusion Therapy Success Rates

Several studies have shown high success rates for infusion therapies. For example:

  • Epidural anesthesia is approximately 98%-99% successful in relieving pain during labor.
  • Monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 reduced viral load (the amount of virus that health care providers can find in your body) by 90% in study participants, and emergency room visits and hospital visits. infection time were reduced by almost half.
  • Ketamine Infusion Therapyit could be a quick and effective treatment for chronic depression, with about half the patients in one study responding to treatment.
  • Some types of cancer respond better than others to chemotherapy, a type of intravenous therapy that kills harmful cells. For example, a recent study found that prostate cancer patients were about 10% more likely to survive chemotherapy than other cancer treatments.but there isother infusion therapiesavailable to treat cancer that have fewer side effects than chemotherapy. This includes hormone therapy.Antibody,vaccinesand immunotherapy.

Infusion therapy side effects

Side effects of infusion therapy may include:

  • Redness at the injection site
  • swelling
  • Injection site injury
  • Muscle pains
  • Allergic reactions such as rash, shortness of breath, and confusion

Below are some risks associated with any type of infusion therapy.

Complications of IV therapy

Complications of IV therapy can include:

  • Burning, stinging, or redness if the IV solution leaks into the skin around the injection site
  • If it is infected, pus will come out of the injection.
  • Pulmonary edema or excess lung fluid: This requires immediate medical attention and is characterized by difficulty breathing and coughing up a foamy substance.
  • Gas embolism (when air gets into a vein): Symptoms include shortness of breath, increased heart rate, shoulder pain, dizziness, and confusion.

Complications of epidural therapy

Complications of epidural therapy can include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • headache
  • Hot flushes
  • damaged blood vessel
  • Nerve damage at the injection site.
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

Complications of intramuscular therapy

Complications of intramuscular therapy may include:

  • nerve damage
  • The drug penetrates into the surrounding tissue.
  • Muscle atrophy, or when a muscle loses strength
  • bone injury

Complications of subcutaneous therapy

Complications of subcutaneous therapy may include:

  • injection site ampoule
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • nausea
  • kidney problems
  • blood clot

Who should not receive intravenous therapy?

Infusion therapy is not for everyone, including:

  • Some children under 12 years of age
  • some older adults
  • In some cases, people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Those with a history of heart problems.
  • People with heavy bleeding, even during childbirth.
  • Those who have had blood clots in the past.
  • People who give birth and suffer from low blood pressure

Before undergoing IV therapy, be sure to share your medical history and any concerns you have with your healthcare provider.

How to prepare and what to expect

To prepare for infusion therapy, ask your doctor about the following:

  • If you need to avoid certain foods or change your medication schedule before treatment
  • Whether others are allowed to accompany you to the procedure
  • When there's pain and something to ease that pain
  • What is used to treat allergic reactions when they occur?
  • How many sessions are required for treatment
  • All side effects to monitor at home
  • How much training you and your caregivers receive for home infusion therapy
  • How to accurately measure medication for home infusion therapy

Expect the following during infusion therapy:

  • The injection site and needles are disinfected
  • Have the injection site covered after your treatment
  • A comfortable chair to sit in during the entire treatment.
  • Anesthesia for some larger needles used during treatment
  • Monitoring throughout your therapy
  • For home fusion, you and your caregivers receive proper training and follow-up appointments


Infusion therapy is when a drug or nutrient is put directly into a person's system. Infusion therapy can be intravenous (IV), that is, through an IV needle; an epidural, which is inserted around the nerves of the spinal cord; intramuscular, which is introduced into muscle tissue; or subcutaneously, inserted into the body fat under the skin.

A word from Verywell

From vaccines to chemotherapy, monoclonal antibodies, and treatment for COVID-19, infusion therapy is a life-saving treatment for many. If injection of strong drugs seems intimidating, discuss your concerns with your doctor before IV therapy.

Also, talk about side effects and possible complications, as well as how to treat them. If you are receiving IV therapy at home, be sure to ask for clear instructions and proper training beforehand. If you have a chronic illness, it's important to consider the different types of infusion therapy available to you, whether it's for pain relief, immunotherapy, or to balance nutrients to prevent further disease.

frequent questions

  • How long does infusion therapy last?

    This may depend on the condition being treated. Chemotherapy for cancer, for example, can take three to six months.Epidural anesthesia, on the other hand, lasts between one and two hours.Hormone therapy for prostate cancer can take months to yearswhile monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 only require a session of about two hours.

    Learn more:What is intravenous therapy?

  • What is the difference between a transfusion and an infusion?

    A transfusion is when blood or part of another person's blood is donated and placed into a patient's bloodstream.With an IV, on the other hand, substances such as medications, anesthetics, vitamins, and vaccines are introduced into the bloodstream.

  • What diseases does infusion therapy usually treat?

    Infusion therapy is typically used for chronic conditions such as cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune disorders, acute pain, nutritional deficiencies, and dehydration.Infusion therapy is also used to relieve pain in emergencies or during surgery, such as B. used during childbirth. Antibody treatments, such as those for COVID-19, and vaccines are also infusion therapies.

    Learn more:What you need to know about cancer and infusion therapy

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Infusion therapy: what it is and what to expect (2)

VonNeha Kashyap
Neha is a New York-based health journalist who has written for WebMD, ADDitude, HuffPost Life, and dailyRx News. Neha enjoys writing about mental health, elder care, innovative health technologies, how health care is paid for, and simple actions we can all take to work toward better health.

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