What is an IV iron infusion?
“Intravenous” or “IV” means giving something directly into the blood stream of the body through a vein. A needle placed into a vein (usually the back of the hand or arm) is attached to a drip that contains iron mixed with saline (a sterile salt water solution). This fluid is slowly “dripped” (infused) into the vein and mixes with the blood in your body.
Why is iron important?
Iron is essential for the body to make haemoglobin (Hb), a pigment that makes red blood cells red. When the amount of iron in the body gets too low, the haemoglobin levels falls below normal. This is known as “iron deficiency anaemia”. Haemoglobin is very important as it carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. If you iron or haemoglobin levels are low this may make you feel tired and not able to carry out your normal routine.
Why might I need an IV iron infusion?
The most common way to treat iron deficiency anaemia is to take iron by mouth as a tablet or liquid. This works well and is usually tried by people first.
However IV iron fusions may be needed in the following circumstances:
- Unable to tolerate iron taken by mouth
- Unable to absorb iron through the gut
- Unable to absorb enough iron due to the amount of blood the body is losing
- Not responding to iron tablets
- Iron tablets are making you feel ‘clogged up’
- Have chronic kidney or heart failure
- In need of a rapid increase of iron levels to help avoid important complications or a blood transfusion (such as, before or after a major surgery, significant anaemia late in pregnancy or after delivery)
Risks and benefits of IV iron infusions
Your doctor will explain the risks, benefits, and available alternatives to IV iron in your particular case. The most significant risk of IV iron is having a small chance of having an allergic reaction which can, in rare cases be life threatening. IV iron is prescribed for iron deficiency anaemia when oral iron is not tolerated, effective, or likely to work quickly enough and the benefits of IV iron outweigh the risks in your particular case. If there is a chance you could be pregnant, inform your doctor as IV iron should be avoided in the first trimester of pregnancy.