Intravenous therapy, more commonly known as IV therapy or fluid therapy, is a means of delivering fluids and medications directly into a vein. This type of therapy is common seen within hospital settings, especially when treating patients who are suffering from fever, dehydration, a recent traumatic injury or that may require multiple medications over a period of time. Different types of fluids may be used during IV therapy depending on the situation or needs of the patient. While IV therapy may look like a complex or advance medical procedure, the principles behind it are actually quite simple.
Types of IV Fluids
The most commonly used fluids in IV therapy are typically saline or Lactated Ringer’s solution. Other types of fluids may be used, including those that may contain or be mixed with different medications in order to ensure that they are released into the body slowly over a long period of time. A solution made from saline and a simple sugar known as dextrose is also widely used to treat diabetics and other patients who may suffer from a blood-sugar imbalance or related issue. IV fluids commonly contain electrolytes in order to speed the process of hydration throughout the body’s cells, tissues and organs.
Patients who are either suffering from or at greater risk of dehydration are often treated with IV fluids. It is very common for patients who have been instructed not to eat or drink prior to a medical examination or other procedure to be placed on IV therapy in order to prevent dehydration. Fluid therapy is also used as a preventative measure when dealing with symptoms that might increase the risk of dehydration like prolonged or persistent vomiting. IV therapy is used as a first-line treatment for acute dehydration, heat exhaustion, fever and similar conditions.
Trauma and Shock
Fluid therapy can be used to replace the blood loss caused by a traumatic injury. While IV fluids are unable to deliver oxygen to cells in order to facilitate cellular metabolic functions, they can be used in the short term in order to keep blood pressure from falling too low. IV therapy is such an important part of trauma medicine that fluids are typically given by first respondents on-scene or during transport to a hospital. Trauma is not the only time when fluids are given to prevent or manage shock. IV therapy is also used when dealing with sepsis, an acute allergic reaction and other types of shock which might jeopardize the life of a patient.
IV Drug Port
Access to intravenous medications is another instance where fluid therapy may be utilized. An IV is used during acute care in order to save time and ensure that IV drugs can be given without issue. For stable patients, fluid therapy can make it easier to administer medications and doses over time, eliminating the need to give patients a fresh injection each time. Fluid therapy can also be used in order to dilute the potency or concentration of certain drugs. IV fluids that are used in combination with certain drugs can administer a slow and steady dose over a long period of time. For medications that must be given continuously, IV therapy is typically done through use of special equipment that allows care providers to control the rate of flow with a great deal of precision.
Who Can Administer Fluid Therapy
There are a variety of medical conditions or issues that may require patients to be given fluids intravenously. In pre-hospital settings, IV therapy may be given by paramedics, firefighters and other first respondents. Other medical professionals and care providers who may be trained in the procedure typically include nurses, phlebotomist, and those who work at plasma centers or blood donation sites. Fluid and IV therapy is considered to be very safe and the procedure is only associated with a few very minor side effects that are both easy to identify and address.