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An IV infusion is a way of delivering medications or fluids directly into the body through a vein. A small hollow tube or catheter is inserted into a vein and left in place. This catheter can be connected to a long piece of plastic hollow tubing that leads to an IV bag. The IV bag will contain fluids or other medications as prescribed by a doctor.
The most common sites for intravenous access are the veins in the hands or the arms. The veins in the feet are a common intravenous site for babies. Sometimes medical professionals may need to insert a special IV line in a patient's neck, upper chest, or in the upper arm area. This may be done if an individual has poor looking veins in the hands and arms or if an IV infusion must be given for an extended period of time.
Intravenous infusions are usually delivered through a device called an infusion pump. The infusion pump is attached to an IV pole and the IV tubing is threaded through the infusion pump. The pump is then programmed by the nurse or other specially trained health care personnel to deliver the fluid or medication over a specific period of time. The rate for a fluid infusion is determined by the doctor. The medication infusion rate is determined by the medication manufacturer.
There are many types of medications and fluids that can be administered intravenously. If an individual is ill and dehydrated, the doctor will usually order specific fluids to be given through the vein for quick re-hydration. One of the most common fluids used for this purpose is 0.9 percent normal saline. This type of IV infusion is used because it is similar to the body's normal fluid.
Other types of medications and fluids that may be given intravenously include antibiotics and medications to control heart rate and blood pressure. Blood, blood products, and chemotherapy medications are also given through an IV infusion. These types of infusions are usually given in a health care setting where the results can be monitored. Occasionally intravenous antibiotics can be administered at home.
IV therapy is not without risks. An individual can develop an infection at the IV insertion site. He can also experience swelling, irritation and sometimes tissue damage if the medication being delivered leaks outside the vein. Occasionally, an individual may develop a blood clot in the above the IV infusion site. These complications are all cause for concern and should be treated by a doctor.