EASTERN NIAGARA HEALTHLINES: All about infusion therapy

Bridget Murray


Infusion therapy refers to the administration of medications through a needle or catheter. It is sometimes prescribed when a patient's condition is very severe and/or it cannot be treated effectively by oral medications. Although infusions are sometimes conducted in a patient’s home, infusion therapy is frequently performed in an ambulatory surgery unit on an outpatient basis, under the watchful care of surgical professionals.

Infusions are different than injections, which are medications administered within muscles (intramuscular), intra-aerial, or beneath the skin (intradermal) or within the fat or the skin of the patient (subcutaneous). Infusion therapy is administered via a PICC line, intraosseous (IO), intravenous (IV), porta catheter or any other device.

Sometimes infusion therapy is prescribed when a patient has difficulty eating. When someone can’t keep food down, they obviously can’t take medication properly. Sometimes medications also need to go directly into the bloodstream. Some medications cannot be given orally because the stomach acids will destroy them, and they will no longer be effective to treat a patient’s disease. In these types of cases, and others, infusion therapy is required. This method of treatment is perfect for someone with cancer, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or other internal illnesses that need to be treated using an intravenous medication.

There are a large number of infusion therapies available for people with different diseases. Therapies include blood component stimulating factor therapy, chemotherapy, hydration therapy, pain management therapy, and total parenteral nutrition.

Some examples of infusion therapies include: antibiotic/antiviral; anti-coagulation therapy; anti-emetics; anti-hemophilic factors; blood component stimulating factor; chemotherapy; enteral nutrition; hydration; inotropic therapy; pain management; and total parenteral nutrition.

During infusion therapy, physicians and other qualified health care professionals will administer a medication by inserting it into a patient's vein. The process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, so patients may need to devote a particular day to this medication process.

Since the infusions are administered through an IV, it may be slightly intimidating at first. However, it's important for patients to realize that the treatment is there to help treat them for their disease and it’s ultimately going to help them. The IV pumps help deliver the medication directly into the bloodstream. While it is a time-consuming process, it can help a person feel a lot better once it’s over.

While home infusion therapy can be a comfortable alternative for many patients, it’s also reassuring to know that the local hospital is able to accommodate patients and provide this care under the supervision of very capable health care providers. For more information about this service, please contact ENH’s Surgery Department at 514-5624.

Bridget Murray, RN, is the director of surgical services for Eastern Niagara Hospital. Eastern Niagara Healthlines is a bi-weekly feature from the Eastern Niagara Health System’s community relations department. Questions may be directed to 514-5505.

Recommended for you