Most people have seen them in hospitals at one time or another, a clear plastic bag filled with fluid, suspended from an IV pole, and attached to a thin tube designed to go into a patient’s veins. But very few understand the purpose of this medical setup, which has been in practice since at least the early 1600s, let alone why physicians might deem it necessary for certain patients. Officially known as IV therapy or intravenous therapy, this setup, which makes it possible to administer medications intravenously, has many use cases. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, physicians typically order IV therapy if any of the following apply:
- If a rapid onset of a drug’s effects is necessary
- If a precise serum drug level is needed
- If the oral medications a patient needs are likely to cause severe gastrointestinal problems
- If a patient is severely dehydrated or malnourished
- If a patient needs to undergo surgery
Intravenous Insertion: Everything Involved in Starting an IV Line for a Patient
While physicians are the ones who order IVs for patients, IV therapists are usually the ones responsible for starting an IV line, which entails using a plastic catheter to insert the thin tube attached to an IV bag into a patient’s veins. They also ensure the IV bag contains the correct dosage of medication or fluids that the patient needs. But the role of an IV therapist does not end there; they also monitor the patient for adverse reactions to IV medications or fluids and document the entire IV process from start to finish.
What Goes Into an IV Bag?
Now that we are a little more up to speed on IVs, what is involved in administering them, and why physicians sometimes order them, let’s switch gears and discuss what goes into IV bags. Generally speaking, IV bags are 25 ml to 1000 ml and usually contain a colloid or crystalloid solution. The IV drip from those bags can be continuous or bolus. Physicians will look at several things to decide whether patients should receive a colloid or crystalloid solution and whether their condition calls for them to be on an IV therapy regimen that utilizes an IV bag with a continuous or bolus drip.
Crystalloid solutions – These solutions, which make up most of the IV bags seen in hospitals, contain small dissolved molecules that can move from a patient’s bloodstream to tissues and cells. Examples of crystalloid solutions include normal saline and dextrose in water (D5W), and both are considered go-to solutions for fluid resuscitation. For those unfamiliar with fluid resuscitation, it is a medical practice that entails replenishing fluids lost by the body due to excessive sweating, bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea, and the like. Lactated Ringer’s solution, which contains chloride, potassium, calcium lactate, and sodium, is another example of a crystalloid solution.
Colloid solutions – Unlike crystalloid solutions, colloid solutions contain large, less dissolved molecules that can’t easily pass through cell membranes. As a result, they are more likely to stay in blood vessels and elevate blood pressure levels. And this can benefit individuals struggling with low blood pressure brought on by infection, malnourishment, blood loss, or other health conditions characterized by low blood pressure. But it does not end there; crystalloid solutions are a go-to for treating individuals who have lost a lot of bodily fluids due to trauma or burns and must undergo immediate rehydration to prevent severe dehydration or kidney failure.
In summary, IV therapy is ideal for replenishing fluids in the body. It can also help prevent and treat many other health conditions, from malnourishment to kidney failure and everything in between, depending on the type of solution that goes into a patient’s IV bag. To learn more about the role of IV therapy in patient care, consider speaking with one of our friendly and knowledgeable associates today. Call us at 205-352-9141.