What Happens When an IV Dextrose/Saline Drip Is Too Fast?

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Most people need to get an IV at some point in time. This usually happens when someone needs surgery, either because they are very sick or they have been injured. In many such cases, the individual also needs to continue receiving IV fluids after the surgery has been completed, especially during the initial stages of recovery when they aren’t as strong. Although the specific compounds given in an IV can vary, one of the most common IV drips involves a combination of dextrose and saline. In some cases, an IV such as this can be life-saving. However, complications can and do sometimes occur. What happens if the IV drip containing dextrose and saline is set too high? Does this put the patient at risk?

If you’re not familiar with how IV’s work, they are typically attached to a pump that can then be set to deliver the medication in the IV at a predetermined rate. The situation is quite similar in the prehospital setting as well. An IV pump may not be available in this type of situation but the IV line itself can be metered so that it runs wide open or is titered down in order to achieve the best results for the patient.

There are times when a fast IV drip is necessary. This usually occurs when the patient has already lost a great deal of blood volume, either through dehydration or blood loss. In situations like this, it’s often necessary to allow the IV to drip as fast as possible. That way, blood volume can be increased at a more rapid pace. This gives the patient a better chance of survival in most cases. As far as the exceptions to the rule are concerned, more information will be provided later on.

For the conscious patient, it’s entirely possible to feel an IV drip that is too fast. It can be an extremely odd sensation, even under the best of circumstances. Most people feel cold, especially at the site where the IV needle is located. That cold feeling will likely make its way through the body as the fluid travels through the bloodstream. Eventually, the patient may be so cold that he or she is shivering uncontrollably. In addition, it’s not uncommon to experience a tingling sensation along with the cold, although this is likely to be far more pronounced at the site of the needle. In extreme cases where the needle hasn’t been placed securely into the vein, the IV could infiltrate due to the speed of the drip in conjunction with the improper placement of the needle. When an IV infiltrates, the fluid essentially stops going into the vein and goes into the surrounding tissue instead. This can cause swelling and is often extremely painful. An infiltrated IV must be stopped immediately in order to minimize potential complications.

Aside from the physical sensation of the IV drip, what happens to the body when a fast drip is present? Blood pressure increases as blood volume is increased. As the pressure comes up and it becomes easier for the heart to pump blood around the body, it slows down and doesn’t beat as hard. This can be life-saving for the person who is very weak due to illness or injury. Reducing the workload on the heart is one of the key components of keeping the patient alive.

When saline is mixed with dextrose, a fast IV drip will also cause the blood sugar to increase rather dramatically, although it doesn’t have a tendency to increase these numbers for long periods of time. Unless the individual in question has diabetes, this is not something that is usually a major concern. More will be discussed about potential complications in the following paragraph.

Potential Problems With a Fast IV Drip

As previously mentioned, there can be complications associated with a fast IV drip. Aside from what has already been mentioned, there are certain things that medical professionals must watch for when giving a patient a fast drip, as follows:
* The pooling of fluid in the lungs, also known as pulmonary edema
* Potential kidney failure
* The possibility of a diabetic emergency
* Increased intracranial pressure

These things typically only happen in patients who are already compromised, such as those with diabetes, heart or kidney issues, and those who have suffered a significant head injury. However, vital signs should always be carefully monitored when giving a patient an IV. Fortunately, the staff at reputable IV clinics are well versed in this type of thing so you shouldn’t hesitate to contact them right away if you need IV therapy at 205-352-9141.

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