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What is an Intravenous Injection?

By Felicia Dye
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Intravenous is a term that means within the vein. An injection is something that is introduced into something else. An intravenous injection is the introduction of a substance into the veins using a needle. This may be necessary for medical reasons. It may also be done for illicit purposes.

An injection can involve one or more single doses of a substance administered through a needle. The substance to be administered is usually stored in a syringe, which is attached to the needle. Once the needle is inserted into a vein, the raised portion of the syringe may be depressed, forcing the substance into the vein.

Giving an injection intravenously can be a means of therapy in some other medical cases. Sometimes, such as in cases of dehydration, a person is given fluids intravenously over an extended period, which could be hours or days. Instead of syringes, the substance to be injected is often stored in bags hung above the patient. The substance flows through tubes to the needle. Gravity is the force that is generally used to make this possible. The flow is generally controlled by clips that can be connected to the tube that runs to the needle.

Doing this is a means to quickly replace fluids the body needs. This method of treatment may be referred to as a drip or an IV. Blood transfusions and intravenous feeding may also be administered in this way.

There are complications that may occur during an intravenous injection. An air embolism is one of them. This happens when a large quantity of air enters the blood stream. This can affect blood flow. Infiltration can occur if the needle pierces the wall of a vein. In this case, the injected substance may begin to gather in the spaces around the vein. Such complications should be dealt with immediately.

Sometimes intravenous injection occurs outside of the medical setting. This is often true among users of illicit drugs such as heroin or amphetamines. Consuming drugs this way can produce an instant high. This is because the illicit substance is introduced directly into the blood stream. Other methods of drug consumption may be slower because the substance has to travel.

Intravenous injection of illicit substances can often lead to more problems than addiction. A mild effect may be scarring which results from the repeat piercing of an area. These scars are often referred to as tracks. A vein can also be damaged in a way that interrupts proper blood flow. Furthermore, many users who share needles contract serious illnesses such as hepatitis and AIDS.

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Discussion Comments
By anon246223 — On Feb 08, 2012

I need some help. I am doing a medication course and need 100 percent to pass and am really stuck on one question.

We have to list all the routes of administering medication. Is intravenous an injection, because when I read the BNF, it talks about intravenous injections so I think yes, but then are all intravenous an injection? I know they are on a drip but does an injection take place first? A needle does go in your arm for the drip to be attached but could you call that an in injection?

By goldenmist — On Apr 30, 2011

@hidingplace - When I was in hospital my needle was attached through a vein in my hand. There's a tiny sting as they first attach it but afterward you should barely notice it. I think they use the hand to maintain maximum maneuverability as opposed to if it was attached further up the arm or elsewhere, although this is just my own personal experience and it probably depends on the person and the situation.

By hidingplace — On Apr 29, 2011

What are the typical intravenous injection sites? I have to go into surgery soon and I'm scared enough of needles as it is.

By roser — On Apr 28, 2011

After I had shoulder surgery last year I had an intravenous injection hooked up for a couple days while I was in hospital which the nurses called a "pain pump". It was just a button attached to the IV that would allow me to open and close the tube that ran into the needle every five minutes (to avoid overusing it; it can make you quite nauseous). It's an odd sensation initially to be attached to a drip by a needle but you get used to it after a while. It's certainly not painful!

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