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What Is Intravenous Administration?

An intravenous drip.
Intravenous fluids are often used to treat dehydration.
An intravenous drip may be administered via veins in the arm if veins in the hand are unsuitable.
Antibiotics may be administered intravenously.
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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
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Intravenous administration is a medical term referring to the administration of fluids and medicine directly into a vein. Medical professionals agree that intravenous administration is the quickest way to deliver fluids and medicine to the body, and many medications can only be given intravenously. Intravenous administration might also be referred to as IV therapy, IV drip, or simply IV. An IV is typically established by inserting a hollow needle directly into a vein and then connected to a syringe or an IV line.

Both medications and body replacement fluids can be administered through an IV. During in-patient hospital stays and emergency situations, medical professionals will establish an IV line for intravenous administration of electrolyte fluids as well as any medications that might be necessary. Through the inserted IV needle, blood can be collected and pain medication, antibiotics, and other drugs can be administered at anytime through an established functioning IV line. In most cases, it is common to establish intravenous access through a peripheral vein, but occasionally a central vein may be required.

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A peripheral vein is any vein located outside the chest or abdomen. Typically, medical personnel access a vein in an arm or hand. If for some reason a vein in the arm or hand is inaccessible or inconvenient, a vein within the leg or foot may be used. In neo-natal facilities where intravenous administration for infants may be required, a vein in the top of the head may be used. For certain types of intravenous administration, such as chemotherapy, a central IV line, or access to a larger vein such as the superior or inferior vena cava, must be established.

Intravenous administration, while fast and effective in terms of the delivery of fluids and medications, carries its own risks. Infection is the biggest risk of IV insertion because the skin has been broken, giving bacteria access to the body. In most cases, infection is localized, appearing only at the IV site, however bacteria can spread throughout the bloodstream. This type of infection, called septicemia, is far less common with a peripheral IV than a central IV. Irritation of the IV site caused by the needle, the tape holding the needle in place, or even the type of medication being administered may also occur. Other risks include embolism, caused by blood clots or air bubbles, but while potentially life threatening, this occurs infrequently with a peripheral IV.

Intravenous administration of fluids and medications is a common procedure in hospitals and typically has no serious consequences. Due to the quick delivery method, people requiring immediate rehydration or medication typically respond well and it can be a life-saving technique. In emergency situations, emergency medical technicians are trained to establish IV lines prior to a patient’s arrival at the hospital. In some cases, intravenous administration of medication may also be done in a doctor’s office.

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