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Infusion: reasons, process, risks

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 422 views

With an infusion , the patient is given larger amounts of liquids, usually through a vein. As part of such an infusion therapy, water, salts and nutrients are provided. This is necessary, for example, when there is a lack of water or after heavy bleeding. Read all about IVs, when they’re done, and the risks.

What is an infusion?

Doctors refer to the administration of special infusion solutions as infusion. Colloquially, this also means the liquid itself. An infusion is necessary for many clinical pictures and helps to normalize a patient’s fluid and salt balance. In contrast to the so-called transfusion, the patient does not receive any blood products such as red blood cells or blood coagulation proteins with infusions.

types of infusions

Infusion solutions differ in their ingredients and their proportions to one another. The purpose of an infusion results from these properties:

  • Electrolyte solutions contain electrolytes (salts) such as sodium , potassium , or calcium. A special form is the NaCl infusion (sodium chloride), which contains pure table salt.
  • In addition to salts, glucose solutions mainly contain glucose ( dextrose ).
  • Colloidal solutions contain colloids such as hydroxyethyl starch. These large, water-binding molecules help maintain blood pressure.
  • Infusion therapy with medication: Many medications can only be administered after dissolving them in an infusion solution – for example in a NaCl infusion.

Further information: Vitamin C infusion

You can read about when to have a vitamin C infusion and what you need to be aware of in the article on  vitamin C infusion .

When is an infusion performed?

Infusion therapy is always necessary when the cardiovascular function of a patient needs to be supported. Possible areas of application include:

  • Dehydration, for example when it is very hot or diarrhea
  • Blood loss after accidents or internal bleeding
  • Infusions as part of artificial nutrition
  • Replacement of electrolytes in salt deficiency
  • hypoglycaemia
  • Administration of soluble drugs, for example during chemotherapy

What do you do with an infusion?

Infusions are most commonly given through a vein. This requires a permanent venous access (venous catheter or port catheter in the case of chemotherapy), which can be located on the arms or legs as well as on the neck.

Subcutaneous infusion allows large amounts of fluid to be administered quickly. To do this, the doctor places a thin needle under the skin (subcutis). The small blood vessels absorb the infusion solutions and pass them on to the bloodstream .

The fluid from the IV bottles or bags flows into the body through a plastic tube and the catheter or IV needle. For long-term administration – for example in intensive care units – special infusion pumps that enable precise dosing are used.

What are the risks of an infusion?

In principle, the necessary access during an infusion can become inflamed by pathogens that have been brought in. The doctor will then remove the catheter or needle and, if necessary, prescribe an antibiotic. When the access is made, nerve injuries or bleeding can occur.

Depending on the infusion solution, various complications can occur. These include:

  • Electrolyte solutions: administration of too high concentrations of electrolytes
  • colloidal solutions: allergic reactions and renal dysfunction
  • Glucose solutions: overhydration or impaired consciousness
  • Shifts in the acid-base balance
  • excessive increase in blood pressure
  • Stress on the heart due to excessive amounts of fluid
  • Formation of edema (water deposits in the tissue)
  • Vein irritation and malposition of the venous catheter

What do I have to consider after an infusion?

If the infusions last longer, the electrolyte values ​​are checked regularly. Watch out for skin irritations such as redness or heat in the area where the infusion needle was punctured, which can indicate inflammation. Loss of consciousness, swelling or shortness of breath are typical symptoms of complications that can occur with an infusion .

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