What is an IV Drip?

Patti Kate

An intravenous, or IV, drip is a course of treatment typically consisting of fluid replacement, infusion of blood or administration of drugs via injection into the patient's vein. Medical equipment typically required for an IV drip includes an IV bag, pole and catheter. A needle and syringe is part of the necessary equipment as well. An intravenous drip that is administered continually is typically seen in a seriously ill or comatose patient, though this is not always the case.

An intravenous drip may be administered via veins in the arm if veins in the hand are unsuitable.
An intravenous drip may be administered via veins in the arm if veins in the hand are unsuitable.

A peripheral IV line is sometimes used in an IV drip and will be administered directly into a peripheral vein. In such cases, equipment that might be used would be a short catheter. The IV drip of a peripheral IV line needs to be injected into a vein that is typically located on any of the limbs, but not directly into the chest or abdominal area, unless it is a dire medical emergency. The catheter is connected to a syringe and secured to the skin at the injection site. There is a risk of infection at the injection site, and this is why a catheter of a peripheral IV line needs to be removed after a designated period of time.

Medical equipment required for an IV drip include an IV bag and pole.
Medical equipment required for an IV drip include an IV bag and pole.

Another type of IV is administered by what is known as a central IV line. This is typically injected directly into a very large vein. Medications or fluids can be administered to patients who otherwise might not tolerate the peripheral line due to hypersensitivity of the peripheral veins. Central IV lines come in various forms, each one contingent on the patient's requirements.

Intravenous therapy is also used for treating patients with diseases such as cancer. Chemotherapy is the standard form of treatment and is typically administered through intravenous drips. This procedure is generally done in weekly sessions as high doses of known cancer-destroying drugs are injected into the patient's body.

When a patient loses an excessive amount of blood, an intravenous drip is typically required. This course of action will involve infusing units of blood directly into the patient's vein. In many cases, this can be a lifesaving procedure. A blood transfusion given through an intravenous drip is typically performed during surgical procedures.

There can be several reasons a patient might be required to have an intravenous drip. A common reason is to replace lost fluids which otherwise cannot be ingested orally. Patients suffering from dehydration due to excessive vomiting might not be able to hold down fluids taken by mouth. A patient can quickly become dehydrated through loss of bodily fluids, as well as sodium, magnesium and potassium. In such a case, fluids consisting of an electrolyte solution are administered and replenished through a vein via an IV drip.

Patients who are too ill to consume nutrients orally for various medical reasons will need to be fed intravenously. An IV drip that supplies all necessary life-sustaining nutrients is typically used. This is sometimes known as an IV feeding. Many newborn infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are required to receive such an infusion to sustain their lives.

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Discussion Comments


@ysmina-- Actually, when the intravenous drip is injected into a peripheral vein in the arm, it doesn't hurt much. The pain is only for a second anyway. An injection into the hand or any other body part hurts more.


@ZipLine-- I agree with you, IV drips are great because the serum and medications enter the bloodstream and are effective immediately. So time is not lost and the person recovers quickly.

The only downsides are pain when the needle is going in and the frequent urination that the IV drip causes afterward.


I had to get an IV drip once because of food poisoning. I had vomiting and diarrhea for hours and had to be hospitalized because of possible dehydration.

They gave me an IV drip serum at the hospital and mixed medications into the drip. I think they gave me something for the nausea as well as antibiotics.

The IV drip was actually great. My vomiting and dizziness stopped about twenty minutes after receiving the drip and I felt so much better. I think I really was dehydrated. I went home after the IV drip finished and the ER doctor prescribed me a course of antibiotics to continue at home.

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