IV therapy has numerous benefits over oral therapy. It is the fastest and dependable way of delivering fluid, medications, and nutrients to the body. IV therapy may be especially essential when maintaining such a balance through the oral route is difficult, or there is insufficient time.
Additionally, it is worth noticing that delivery of fluids, medications, and nutrients through IV therapy bypasses the gastrointestinal system and even the first-pass metabolism in the liver.
Perhaps the most common reason to use IV therapy is to fulfill fluid deficiency in the body. IV therapy can help maintain intravascular fluid levels (thus blood pressure) and also help quickly reinstate fluid deficiency in various body compartments and tissues – thus quickly treating dehydration, fluid, and electrolyte imbalance.
Some fluids are better for fulfilling intravascular fluid deficiency, while others are for rehydrating body tissues.
3 Categories of IV Fluids
All IV fluids are divided into three categories:
- Crystalloids (isotonic, hypotonic, and hypertonic)
- Colloids – mainly containing starch or gelatin
- Blood and blood substitution
Read more: A better understanding of IV Therapy
Crystalloids are most commonly used to maintain fluid balance, treat dehydration, or normalize acid-base balance. It is because they are relatively safe and rarely cause any side effects. They might be made of normal saline or even a combination of salts.
Thus, depending on the osmotic effects, all IV fluids are divided into three groups:
Isotonic IV Fluids
These are solutions with an osmotic pressure of concentration of dissolved particles similar to blood. Thus, such fluids may quickly fulfill intravascular space or expand the blood volume. It is because isotonic fluids do not allow the movement of fluids into or out of the body compartments. Therefore, such fluids are primarily used to quickly fulfill fluid deficit in the body and raise blood pressure. An example of such a solution is 0.9% normal saline.
Hypotonic IV Fluids
Hypo means osmotic pressure below. Thus, such solutions have fewer dissolved particles than blood. Therefore, such a solution causes quick movement of fluids into the cells and body compartments. Although such solutions are suitable for managing tissue dehydration, they should be used with caution. Too much movement to body compartments may cause cerebral edema (brain edema). Additionally, too much movement of fluids to body compartments may make hypotension worse. An example of such a solution is 0.45% normal saline.
Hypertonic IV Fluids
These are solutions with a high concentration of dissolved particles. Thus, it would fulfill the intravascular compartment fast and force the movement of fluids out of the body compartments. Therefore, it may help get rid of organ edema and quickly raise blood pressure. But it also means closely monitoring signs of an over increase in fluids in blood vessels and an increase in blood pressure. An example of such fluids is 3% normal saline.
Read more: Top 10 Reasons to have Regular Blood Tests
Some of the commonly used IV fluids and indications
- 0.9% normal saline (isotonic IV Fluid ) is used to quickly manage severe dehydration due to diarrhea, vomiting, wound, and so on. It helps fill blood vessels with fluid and is yet relatively safe.
- Lactated Ringer’s Solution (isotonic IV Fluid) is a combination of sodium lactate, potassium, calcium, and so on. It is suitable for compensating for fluid loss and treating dehydration and helps prevent acidosis. It is often used after surgery, burns, trauma, or fluid losses due to severe diarrhea.
- 5% Dextrose (isotonic IV Fluid, but changes to hypotonic IV Fluid after metabolism of dextrose)- it helps provide water for renal secretion. Thus, it promotes renal excretion of solutes. In addition, it may have a detoxifying effect.
- 0.45 sodium chloride (hypotonic IV Fluid) would promote the secretion of solutes from the kidney and promote detoxification of the body.
- 3% Sodium Chloride (hypertonic IV Fluid)- it is used to treat either severe hyponatremia (low salts in the body) or cerebral edema (brain swelling).
Above are just some examples of commonly used fluids in IV therapy. However, there are tens of fluids for various purposes. Generally, only a doctor or a trained healthcare worker can decide what is suitable for an individual. However, IV therapy is good in the way that it would quickly help manage a medical condition.
IV therapy for medications
Although most doctors would prescribe IV injections, some medications should be given more slowly. Therefore, doctors or healthcare workers may give antibiotics, corticosteroids, and other medicines via IV therapy. This generally helps provide medications at higher dosages in a safe manner. Some medicines are more likely to cause side effects if injected quickly (bolus) and are pretty safe when given through IV drip.
IV nutritional therapy
Sometimes it may be essential to provide nutrients through the IV route. For example, it may be due to severe and prolonged illness, gastrointestinal issues, and other reasons. Thus, healthcare workers may give vitamins, iron, amino acids, and other nutrients. This may help quickly revive health.
IV therapy for managing day to day issues, dehydration, and detoxification of the body
There are many less-discussed benefits of IV therapy. It may even sometimes help quickly manage some chronic issues. For example, it may help treat the low level of dehydration caused by heat, illness, prolonged fever. In many such cases, IV therapy may not be essential, but it can be a faster way to recover. Similarly, using IV therapy for detoxification may help a person feel better faster.
It is worth understanding that one should carry out IV therapy only under the supervision of a trained nurse or healthcare worker. This is because IV therapy rarely causes any severe side effects if done correctly. However, the wrong choice of fluids or overuse of IV therapy may have many ill-effects like it may cause swelling or organs, increase blood pressure, put undue stress on the heart, and so on.
Read more: IV Therapy FAQs
To conclude, IV therapy is one of the most efficient ways for faster recovery. It may even be life-saving in many cases. It is often used to manage more severe patients, though not necessarily. However, any IV therapy should be done strictly under medical supervision.
Dr. Preet did the research and writing of this article. He is a freelancing member of the Content writing Team of WebCof. Dr. Preet is a practicing General Physician with a specialization in Diabetes. He graduated with M.D. in Medicine from Kazakh Medical University, Kazakhstan. He has more than 15 years of experience in writing healthcare blogs, articles, and web content.