What chemicals or compounds are present in an IV drip liquid?

What chemicals or compounds are present in an IV drip liquid?

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Although most people have heard of IV (intravenous) drips, also commonly referred to as IV therapy, most do not know how they are used and probably even less about the fluids that go into an IV bag. In short, IV therapy is a medical treatment that entails infusing medication, blood, and other fluids directly into a patient’s veins. In cases involving a medical emergency, IV therapy is a preferred treatment as it allows these fluids to quickly enter a patient’s body and possibly save their life. It is also commonly recommended for patients who are unable to metabolize medications when administered orally.


According to BMJ Journals, a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal, 80 percent of hospital patients will receive IV therapy during their admission. And the reasons for administering this treatment can vary significantly from patient to patient. That said, most physicians will prescribe IV therapy for the following reasons:

Replacing fluids and electrolytes – In cases where a patient is severely dehydrated due to excessive vomiting, diarrhea, or even overexerting themselves, IV therapy can help quickly restore lost fluids and improve the balance of electrolytes in the body. It is also worth noting that IV therapy may be prescribed following surgery if a patient has lost a lot of blood or to treat a decline in the production of red blood cells, which is a common occurrence among those with HIV, aplastic anemia, and certain cancers.

Administering medication – Along with fluids and electrolytes, IV therapy is often used to administer medication, some of which include anesthetics, chemotherapy drugs, and antibiotics. In fact, over 40 percent of all antibiotic drugs used to treat severe bacterial infections are administered via IV therapy.

To deliver nutrients – If a patient is unable to consume food naturally, either due to trauma or a condition that impacts their digestive health, many physicians will prescribe IV therapy to provide them with the nutrients that they need.


Now that we have a better understanding of why IV therapy might be needed, let’s take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the type of fluids that are used in IV bags. These plastic bags, fitted with a plastic tube that allows fluid to flow into a patient’s vein, are generally filled with the following:

0.9 % Normal saline – In most cases, the fluid in an IV bag is 0.9 % normal saline, which is also known by several chemical names, some of which include NS, 0.9NaCl, or NSS. This type of normal saline is typically a go-to fluid when it comes to treating individuals who are severely dehydrated caused by chronic diarrhea or vomiting. It is also used to treat those who are struggling with extreme blood loss. It is important to note that normal saline is generally not recommended for those with acute or chronic renal failure as the concentration of sodium is known to cause fluid retention, which can place a significant amount of stress on the kidneys.

4.5% Normal saline – This IV fluid is similar to 0.9% normal saline in many ways; however, there is a distinct difference between these two. In short, 4.5 % saline is used to treat dehydration that occurs at the cellular level. Therefore, unlike 0.9% normal saline, it is often prescribed to those who are severely dehydrated due to a chronic health condition, such as hypernatremia or diabetic ketoacidosis, for example.

Lactated ringers – Also commonly referred to as LR, RL, or ringers lactate, lactated ringers are several fluids inside of one IV bag and consist of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium lactate, and sterile water. This amalgamation of fluids is often used as a treatment for those with severe burns or hypovolemia, a state of shock caused by a sudden loss of blood or other fluids in the body. That said, lactated ringers should be avoided by those with liver disease as the organ is incapable of processing sodium lactate.

5% Dextrose in water – As the name might suggest, dextrose water is an IV fluid that contains glucose, also known as sugar. Because 5% dextrose in water is used by a variety of cells in the body for energy, it is commonly used to help individuals struggling with low blood sugar. It is also sometimes combined with amino acids and fats before being administered intravenously to help individuals who are unable to consume food regularly receive the nutrients that they need.

To learn more about IV therapy and why it is considered a go-to treatment for a wide range of health problems, consider speaking with one of our friendly and knowledgeable associates today at 205-352-9141.

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