Patients diagnosed with severe iron deficiency may require iron infusion therapy, which involves intravenous delivery of iron products. This is an alternative treatment when oral iron supplementation or intramuscular iron injections either cannot be used or do not supply sufficient amounts of the mineral. Iron deficiency occurs when the body cannot produce enough red blood cells to compensate for a loss. Chemotherapy, chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, and kidney failure are some of the conditions that might require iron replacement by infusion.
Individuals typically receive iron infusion therapy in a hospital setting. Prior to beginning the treatment, technicians usually administer a testing dose of around 25 milligrams of iron intravenously while monitoring vital signs and checking for symptoms of adverse reactions. Ferric gluconate, iron dextran, and iron sucrose complexes, diluted in normal saline, are some of the products used for infusion. Iron infusion treatments may take anywhere from three to eight hours, depending on the degree of anemia and the prescribed dosage.
Allergic reactions are a primary concern in patients receiving iron infusion therapy. Reactions may appear as topical hives or rashes, but more severe symptoms, include difficulty breathing, swallowing, and chest pain may also develop. Facilities generally have emergency medical equipment close by in the event of anaphylactic occurrences. Common side effects of iron infusion include dizziness, flushing, headache, and a metallic taste in the mouth. Some patients experience flu-like symptoms for two or three days.
Chemotherapy often damages red blood cells or hinders the bone marrow's ability to produce replacements. Patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, commonly experience internal bleeding, which depletes red blood cell numbers. End stage renal disease is one of the more common reasons for patients to require iron infusion therapy. The ailing kidneys do not secrete enough erythropoietin, the hormone that stimulates red blood cell production in the bone marrow. Physicians also believe that the body's inability to remove waste products effectively causes uremic toxins, which also contribute to decreased bone marrow production.
Physicians typically diagnose iron deficiency when hematocrit and hemoglobin concentrations fall below acceptable levels. Hematocrit levels average around 33% to 36%, depending on lab criteria, and represent the percentage of blood volume that contains red blood cells. Hemoglobin levels average 11 to 13 grams per deciliter of blood and indicate the amount of iron protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Iron levels within blood average between 40 to 150 micrograms per deciliter in women and 50 to 160 micrograms per deciliter for men.