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What is an IV Push?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The intravenous or IV push or bolus is a means of delivering additional medication through an intravenous line, administered all at once, over a period of a minute or two. This contrasts with IV drip techniques where medicine is slowly delivered from an IV bag. An IV push has the advantage of being able to give extra medicine, as needed, without having to inject the patient elsewhere, and it can rapidly get this medicine into the body since it’s injected directly into the bloodstream. This technique also comes with noted cautions, since not all medicines can be delivered this way and some may cause extreme irritation or toxically high blood levels of a medicine, if they are given too quickly.

When an IV push is needed, a qualified nurse or doctor may have a few choices as to how to administer it. Some lines are called peripheral, and these are usually lines that aren’t currently being used but are being kept usable through injections of heparin. These locked off lines may be the perfect mode of delivering a bolus, since they forgo the necessity of disconnecting any IV drip lines that may be connected to the patient.

Another option is to disconnect the medicine currently being delivered intravenously to briefly give a bolus. In both cases, the medical worker administering the IV push must make sure the medicine given will not interact with other drugs being administered. If there is a possibility of interaction, other methods for delivering the drug, like intramuscular injection, might be utilized.

One thing emphasized in giving the actual IV push is that the injection must be slow. Not all medical workers are allowed to perform this procedure, and typically only registered nurses or more qualified medical professionals can administer medicine in this way. The possible negative effects of a fast bolus include great irritation to the vein, infiltration of the vein (where medicine leaks into the surrounding tissues), and introducing toxic levels of medicine into the bloodstream. These negatives mean a slow injection lasting a couple of minutes or more is indicated in most cases.

Not all medications are suitable for delivery by IV push, and most hospitals and medical agencies keep a list of those medicines most suited, their conflicts with other drugs, and any special precautions that must be taken when using them. Nurses or other medical practitioners who regularly perform this procedure must know the limitations of it to ensure patient safety. Lists are handy, but personal knowledge of when this procedure is acceptable is even more important.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By bear78 — On May 08, 2012

@turkay1-- The side effects will depend on the medication and the dose. But the procedure itself isn't painful. It hasn't been for me anyway.

I get regular IV pushes because I have chronic fatigue syndrome. I have not had any adverse side effects from the procedure and it hasn't been irritating or painful. Even my three year old son had to get a Vitamin K IV push once and he did just fine too.

What they do is they go into the vein with a butterfly needle and tape it on your arm or hand. And then the medication is pushed very slowly into the bloodstream.

Of course, an IV push is preferred in certain cases and medications. But personally, I prefer it over an IV drip which takes way too long.

By candyquilt — On May 07, 2012

My grandfather has Alzheimer's and his doctor has suggested that he start going for IV pushes at the hospital. They said they're going to put him on IV glutathione therapy which is a kind of antioxidant that will be administered intravenously.

The doctor said that my grandfather will be getting them once a week for a month and if it helps, they might continue.

I know that IV pushes last for only a couple of minutes, but it's risky too. And I'm not sure if it will be painful for my grandfather. I want him to feel better but an IV push every week seems like a lot.

Has anyone been on a similar IV therapy? What was it like? Did you experience any pain or side effects?

By ddljohn — On May 07, 2012

I was given an IV push once when I took the wrong medication and ended up at the emergency room. I was fairly young then and accidentally picked up my mom's medication instead of mine from the cabinet.

She was on high blood pressure medications and so when I took her tablets, my blood pressure went down too much. As soon as I realized what had happened, I rushed to the emergency. There, they gave me an IV push and injected another medication that raises blood pressure. This way my blood pressure was stabilized in a short period of time.

If they had given me a regular drip IV, I could have possibly died in that time period. It was necessary to act fast and the IV push literally saved my life. I hope I never need an IV push again, but I'm so glad that it's available if necessary.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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