Intravenous therapy (IV therapy or iv therapy in short) is the infusion of liquid substances directly into a vein. Intravenous simply means "within vein". Therapies administered intravenously are often included in the designation of specialty drugs. Intravenous infusions are commonly referred to as drips because many systems of administration employ a drip chamber, which prevents air from entering the blood stream (air embolism), and allows an estimation of flow rate.
Intravenous therapy may be used to correct electrolyte imbalances, to deliver medications, for blood transfusion or as fluid replacement to correct, for example, dehydration. Intravenous therapy can also be used for chemotherapy.
Compared with other routes of administration, the intravenous route is the fastest way to deliver fluids and medications throughout the body. The bioavailability of the medication is 100% in IV therapy.
A standard IV infusion set consists of a pre-filled, sterile container (glass bottle, plastic bottle or plastic bag) of fluids with an attachment that allows the fluid to flow one drop at a time, making it easy to see the flow rate (and also reducing air bubbles); a long sterile tube with a clamp to regulate or stop the flow; a connector to attach to the access device; and Y-sets to allow "piggybacking" of another infusion set onto the same line, e.g., adding a dose of antibiotics to a continuous fluid drip.
An infusion pump allows precise control over the flow rate and total amount delivered, but in cases where a change in the flow rate would not have serious consequences, or if pumps are not available, the drip is often left to flow simply by placing the bag above the level of the patient and using the clamp to regulate the rate; this is a gravity drip.
A rapid infuser can be used if the patient requires a high flow rate and the IV access device is of a large enough diameter to accommodate it. This is either an inflatable cuff placed around the fluid bag to force the fluid into the patient or a similar electrical device that may also heat the fluid being infused.
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