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What is infusion treatment?

Infusion therapy or infusion treatment consists of administering medication in fluid form by administering it via needle into the body. This minimally invasive, outpatient technique can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions or act as a supplement to health and wellness-based practices. Additionally, infusions are safe, relatively painless, and can offer help when oral medications are not effective. 

Types of infusions vary and may be selected according to your particular medical condition. They are: 

  • Intravenous (IV). IV therapy is the most common type and delivers medication through your veins, directly into the bloodstream. Many people experience this type of infusion when they go in for surgery and typically receive a concoction of saline solution with sodium chloride and dextrose.
  • Epidural. Injected into the spine, this infusion method is often for women giving birth, individuals experiencing severe back pain, or for those receiving testing or treatment in the lower back or pelvic regions.
  • Subcutaneous. This type of infusion is the second most common type and is often used as a method of delivering insulin to the body. Medication is administered through the second layer of the skin, the cutis.  
  • Intramuscular. As its name explains, this type of infusion injects medicine into the muscle, where it is quickly absorbed and slowly released into the body via the bloodstream. 

The intent behind all types of infusions.  

  • Scheduled administration of medication. Since infusion treatments are administered by medical professionals, the doctor or nurse can accurately prescribe when and how frequently the patient is taking his or her medicine. This is especially important for chronic issues or serious illnesses, like cancer. When treatment needs to be daily or multiple times a week, knowing that a patient is receiving medication on a timed, planned schedule can be crucial for effective treatment. 
  • Bypass the stomach. Stomach acids can degrade the efficacy of certain oral medication. Releasing perscriptions into the blood stream bypassess the digestive system entirely, ensuring the treatment is received by the body at full potency. 
  • Bypass swallowing. For some with chronic issues or receiving other types of physical treatments, they are unable to swallow or have difficulty swallowing. The various types of infusions allow doctors to provide medication without asking them to ensure pain due to swallowing.

Who needs infusion therapy? 

Almost anyone can benefit from an infusion of some type of another. Those without medical ailments may seek infusion therapy to increase the effectiveness of their physical training, diet, or lifestyle. Individuals experiencing sickness or chronic pain may also seek help in the way of infusion therapy. 

Below, we’ve included the most common types of infusions and how they affect the body.

  • Antibiotics. Those with severe bacterial infections, like MRSA, may need heavy, frequent doses of antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria. This course of infusion therapy may go on for weeks or months, until the infection is resolved. 
  • Antifungal. Severe fungal infections, like invasive candidiasis, may require the administration of drugs like caspofungin, micafungin, or anidulafungin. Immuno-compromised individuals are particularly at risk for chronic fungal infections and may only be able to receive infusion treatment.
  • Chemotherapy. When battling cancer, oncologists frequently prescribe chemotherapy treatments via intravenous infusion. Unfortunately, chemotherapy requires a fair amount of medication to be administered, making infusion one of the best methods of treatment. The oncologist can release medication through a port in the body, as frequently as treatment requires, without having to poke or prod a new vein each time.
  • Blood factors. Those with hemophilia may seek infusion treatment to receive blood clotting factors instead of having to administer injectable medication at home. 
  • Growth hormones. Children who require growth hormone medication may receive treatment via IV, intramuscular, or subcutaneous infusion therapy. Often, growth hormone medication is administered on a daily basis, at home, through a subcutaneous pump. 
  • Insulin. Diabetes requires constant monitoring and frequent self-medicating. An insulin pump is a form of subcutaneous infusion therapy and has proven effective at managing diabetes in a wide variety of individuals. 
  • Corticosteroids. Chronic issues and autoimmune disorders often require corticosteroid treatment. Administering corticosteroids through different types of infusions can help in the management of diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and more. 
  • Immunoglobulin replacement. Other autoimmune disorders may be treated with immunoglobulin infusion therapy as a way of preventing the body from attacking itself. Another reason individuals need immunoglobulin replacement may be due to humoral immunodeficiency in which the body fails to make enough antibodies on its own. 
  • Biologics. Similarly, biologic infusions are also used to treat autoimmune disorders, like arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
  • Cardiac failure. When suffering from a heart attack, doctors may try to prevent organ failure and restart the heart by pumping a crystalloid solution into the bloodstream. 
  • Chronic fluid loss. Crystalloid solutions administered through infusion may also be used for individuals experiencing sudden fluid loss. This can occur during surgery or due to bowel dysfunction. 

What other conditions can infusion treat? 

In addition to treating diabetes, autoimmune disorders, cancer, and infections, infusion therapy treatments prove crucial to holistic wellness approaches. Those dealing with acute issues like migraines, dehydration, lethargy, or obesity may benefit from targeted infusion therapy treatments. 

  • Dehydration. A cocktail of electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals can help replenish depleted systems. Scheduling an IV infusion at a clinic after an athletic event like a triathlon or before an extended travel day can help the body recover quicker. 
  • Diet-based illnesses. Those with high food allergy sensitivities may not be able to intake an appropriate amount of vitamins, minerals, or calories to sustain their daily life and keep them feeling strong. Those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), celiac disease, or diverticulitis must be extremely careful about what they eat and they often lose calories, water, and minerals through flare-ups. 
  • Asthma, allergies, and respiratory tract infections. Infusion therapy may help keep symptoms from these conditions at bay while strengthening the immune system to combat other seasonal illnesses. 

What to expect during an infusion session. 

Your infusion session or sessions depend on your health condition and the type of infusion treatment your doctor has prescribed. Some typical things one can expect during a treatment include.  

  • An infusion typically takes place at a hospital, infusion clinic, or at your doctor’s office. The setting is usually tranquil, quiet, and clean. 
  • Infusion treatments take anywhere from half an hour to multiple hours depending on how much medication you’re receiving. 
  • For intravenous therapy, a needle attached to a catheter is inserted into your vein or port. The nurse or doctor will secure the needle and catheter with tape to ensure it doesn’t pull out. Medicine will slowly be administered through this device, into the bloodstream. 
  • Comfort and safety. Most clinics or infusion centers offer comfortable seating with blankets, books, and television. Some encourage patients to bring their own entertainment, pillows, and blankets.  
  • Constant monitoring. The healthcare professional responsible for administering your treatment will continue to monitor your progress and health throughout the appointment. 
  • Certain post-infusion symptoms may occur depending on medication received. For example, chemo patients may have nausea and vomiting. 
  • Hydrating fluid is also administered so one may need to use the bathroom periodically and can bring the IV bag with them. 

Side effects and risk factors greatly vary depending on the medication you receive. Your doctor should discuss all potential side effects and any risk factors as they relate to your specific treatment. 

Preparing for your Infusion. 

Your doctor will provide any specific information you need for your appointment. However, here are some general line items to keep in mind preceding your first infusion therapy appointment. 

Prepare a post-treatment ride if necessary.

Wear comfortable clothing.

Bring a jacket or blanket. 

Bring reading materials, iPAD, or laptop.

Stay on top of your hydration the day before and day of the appointment. 

Stay on top of your infusion schedule if multiple treatments are needed.

Bring list of current medications.

Don’t wear scented perfumes, lotions, or products. Others in the clinic may have sensitivities or allergies. 

Key Takeaways

Infusion therapies are widely used in the medical community to relieve patients of painful symptoms or to treat root causes of serious, chronic illnesses. Wellness-focused types of infusions have also allowed people to increase their quality of life and get on track to healthier living. 

UCF Health provides additional resources on infusion therapy diagnosis and procedure, including where to access our online scheduling tool. Our experienced healthcare provider partners, like Dr. Naveed Sami, go to great lengths to ensure their patients are well-looked after and have the best possible chance to lead healthy lives. For more information about healthy living and to receive COVID-19 updates for patients, visit our patient portal.