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Intravenous TherapyIntravenous therapy, or shorter IV therapy, is administering fluids directly into the vein. Intravenous therapies are known as specialty pharmaceuticals. Intravenous way of distributing fluids and medications is the fastest one comparing to other methods.

Risks of Intravenous Therapy

There are numerous risks associated to intravenous therapy such as infection, phlebitis, infiltration, fluid overload, electrolyte imbalance, embolism, and extravasation.


Even though intravenous therapy is an antiseptic procedure, infection may occur due to Coagulase-negative staphylococcus or Candida albicans entering through injection site. Also, bacteria may be accidentally introduced from contaminated equipment. Usually, these infections are local and include swelling and redness around injection site and fever. If bacteria enter the blood stream it may cause lethal infection septicemia.


Phlebitis represents inflammation of a vein due to infection, IV catheter or administered liquids. Symptoms of phlebitis include swelling, pain and redness around the vein. Veins can become sclerotic and hard to access because of repeated injections and recurring phlebitis.

InfiltrationInfiltration takes place if intravenous fluid enters nearby tissue instead of the vein. Symptoms of infiltration are local swelling or edema and the skin paleness. This side effect of IV therapy isn’t serious and it is treated by removing the needle and elevating the affected limb in order to drain the accumulated fluids.

Fluid Overload

Fluid overload happens if fluids are administered at higher rate or in a larger volume than the system can take in or expel. This can lead to: hypertension, heart failure and pulmonary edema.

Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolyte imbalance can occur during IV therapy because of too-dilute or too-concentrated solution.


Embolism represents air bubble or blood cloth brought into circulation through IV that eventually blocks a vessel. Central IV carries higher risk of embolism.


Extravasation occurs in case of leakage of drugs into the surrounding tissue and infiltrated medication is damaging the tissue. This happens more frequently during chemotherapy and in people suffering from tuberculosis.

Complications of IV TherapyComplications can be connected to catheter when it is accidentally removed from the vein thus allowing drugs and fluids to enter nearby tissue (infiltration or extravasation). Also, during insertion of central catheter the lung may be nicked which will allow air to leak from the lungs into the chest cavity.

Allergic reaction may occur because of given medications. If electrolyte solutions are administered too rapidly it may result in heart rhythm abnormality. Circulatory overload can occur if too much fluid volume is injected. In blood transfusion, complications may happen if there are incompatibilities of blood type.

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