How Is Intravenous Iron Therapy Done?

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Anemic individuals have a number of options to get the condition under control. Oral medicine is usually the first option, and the most attractive due to the ease of taking pills. Intramuscular therapy is preferred when a person requires more iron than oral intake allows, or if their body has difficulty absorbing iron tablets. Intravenous therapy is generally reserved for women who are pregnant and the elderly who have severe anemia.

When Is Therapy Administered

  • Iron therapy is often recommended for anemia; however, because various delivery methods exist, IV treatments for iron deficiency depend upon different factors. A number of situations can necessitate IV iron therapy. For example, individuals who are unable to take oral iron compounds, those who are losing blood (which contains large amounts of iron) too quickly for iron to be taken otherwise, and individuals who have gastrointestinal problems that may be aggravated by such treatment must be given IV therapy. Delivering the compound intravenously supplies the correct amount of iron quickly, safely and effectively. Oral therapy is contingent upon the patient's capability of understanding and following a doctor's orders, or their ability to carry out those orders safely.

How Iron Therapy Is Administered

  • A needle is inserted into the patient's vein and an infusion of iron (usually iron dextran) is started. Such a treatment is generally done over at least eight hours. Iron is delivered in a normal saline solution. Deep injections often employ a technique called Z-track, wherein the iron is delivered by penetrating deep into muscle tissue. This procedure ensures that iron does not leak and irritate or discolor the skin.

Post Therapy

  • While post-therapy care is not extremely specific, doctors will often make patients aware of several factors. Since treatment may only be delivered through the upper, outer quadrant of the gluteal muscles (the buttocks), soreness may persist for some time. Avoid strenuous activity for at least a half hour following treatment. Recovery for certain individuals--particularly the elderly or pregnant women--may last even longer. Iron levels following treatment must be monitored closely, as the risk of continued deficiency or even iron overload, which can be just as damaging as the lack of iron, must be avoided at all costs.

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