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What are the risks of IV Therapy?

Updated: Aug 19, 2022

That's a question we get asked quite a bit, and people seem to expect us to say "nothing really". Wouldn't that be great? "No risk at all." We'd love to be able to say that, but it's simply not true. Granted, you may be at just as much risk driving to the office, but nothing is without risk, especially not something involving an (and I was told not to use this word) invasive medical procedure (I was told not to use that word either, but honesty is the best policy).

So, let's look at the possible negative effects of getting an IV, and let's talk about how to avoid them.

1) Infection: Let's just start off with the biggie. Nationally, you probably see this quite a bit. It doesn't happen at Rapid Recovery for very specific reasons, but it does happen elsewhere. Someone is about to insert a needle into your vein. Whatever is on that needle is going into your bloodstream. Make sure they are wearing gloves, they don't sneeze, they clean the infusion site VERY well before inserting the catheter, and you are in a clean environment. That's a good start.

More important is what happens AFTER your infusion is over. At Rapid Recovery we give you an AfterCare card, and it's not a joke or something cool to show your friends. It has an alcohol swab and a bandaid attached to it. You're going to leave with a clean infusion site and some form of bandage over the area where you got your IV. Fantastic. That's gonna work really well for a few hours, or until you start sweating a lot. The reason we give you the bandaid and the alcohol swab is that eventually you're going to need to change that bandage. Remove it in a clean area, clean the site well with the alcohol swab we gave you, and replace the bandage with the new one.

If you're at a clean IV center and you use some common sense after leaving, you shouldn't get an infection.

In the rare case that you start noticing swelling, heat around your infusion area, and redness, you may be getting the beginning of an infection. Wherever you got your IV, contact them immediately.

2) Allergic reaction: Remember when you got your first IV at Rapid Recovery and we made you fill out that LONG allergy questionnaire? That wasn't just to waste your time. When you have an allergy, be it to niacin, large doses of folic acid, maybe magnesium sensitivity, and you get that thing infused directly into your blood stream, you're going to have an issue. That's why we're very serious about your allergy history. You'll also notice that our nurse hovers over you like an annoying waiter for the first several minutes of your infusion. If you're going to have an allergic reaction to something, when that something is pumping right into your bloodstream it's going to happen pretty quickly. So we wait to make sure nothing is going to happen. Please, for the love of God and baseball, don't gloss over your allergy questionnaire or lie on it because you think it's "not a big deal". Sometimes, in really rare instances when someone gets something they don't KNOW they're allergic to, you'll experience anaphylaxis from something or other. Don't panic. We keep Benadryl and Epinephrine on hand for those rare cases. Mainly it means we discontinue the "loaded" IV, replace it with a plain solution of Ringer's Lactate, and hit you with a quick fix of Benadryl.

3) Kidney stones: This one is counterintuitive isn't it? Seems like you get fluids and stay hydrated to KEEP FROM GETTING kidney stones. Well, turns out that if you get really large doses of Vitamin C, such that your kidneys can't process it, you might end up with a kidney stone. That's part of the reason that we don't give more than 10 grams of Vitamin C.

People who don't process calcium well may also be at risk for developing a kidney stone. The trick is that getting any of these vitamins or minerals in a liter of fluids generally takes that risk down to almost nothing, UNLESS you have kidney issues. We have a pretty strict policy regarding treating anyone who has any kidney issues, and if you've had any lack of kidney function we won't infuse you with anything other than fluids without specific instructions from your Nephrologist.

4) Birth defects: One of our founders was a neonatal therapist, and is absolutely paranoid about birth defects. We simply don't treat anyone who is pregnant without very specific instructions from their current, treating Obstetrician. Blood pressure issues, fetal heart rate being affected, etc., can be serious and we'd prefer to simply stay away from any possible complications, for your safety and the safety of your baby. We will, if EVERYTHING is just right and your OB says it's okay, give you fluids, but never give Zofran (ondansetron) or other additives to pregnant women.

5) Phlebitis: That's one you should Google. Pretty rare, but it does cause redness, swelling, and pain. It happens when an IV is inserted improperly. How rare is this at Rapid Recovery? Well, we only hire RNs with at least 5 years of intensive IV experience. By intensive we mean ER, ICU, or other places where a huge chunk of what they do is start IVs. Why? You're coming in for a luxury experience, and paying for it, so we don't want someone jabbing around trying to get a catheter in a vein, or God forbid doing it incorrectly and setting you up for phlebitis.

6) Cardiovascular distress: If you are at an IV place, even if you've been a dozen times, and they don't take your pulse and your blood pressure, get the hell out of there as quickly as you politely can.

Some meds, and even just fluids in general, can cause fluctuations in your pulse and BP. Imagine you're sitting at 80 over 60 (which is really low), and something in your bag, say magnesium, can cause a rapid drop in blood pressure. Now imagine that your nurse doesn't bother to take your BP before starting your infusion. That doesn't sound great does it?

What if your resting pulse is normally 72-80, but for some reason you're at 112 and your nurse doesn't know it because they didn't take a pulse. Then they start an infusion that has a stimulant of some nature in it, and your pulse spikes.

Cardiovascular problems are possible, but the chances of having them are significantly reduced if you're within normal parameters and someone checks to make sure. And remember, "I feel fine" doesn't cut it.

There are other risks associated with IV therapy, and we could talk about them all day, but the best way to reduce the risk is to (1) go to a reputable IV therapy center, (2) make sure they take your medical history the first time you go, (3) make sure they check your vitals EVERY time you get an IV, (4) follow their instructions for infusion site care, and (5) always be honest with your provider about allergies and other known conditions. Basically, the real answer to "is it safe" is "yes, if you do what you're supposed to do, and go to a place where they do what they're supposed to do as well."

And as always, if you're worried or have questions, call us. That's why we're here!

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