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IV treatment at home

You or your child will be going home from the hospital soon. The doctor has prescribed medicines or other treatments that you or your child need to take at home.

IV (intravenous) means giving medicines or fluids through a needle or tube (catheter) that goes into a vein. The tube or catheter may be one of the following:

Home IV treatment is a way for you or your child to receive IV medicine without being in the hospital or going to a clinic.

Alternative names

Home intravenous antibiotic therapy; Central venous catheter - home; Peripheral venous catheter - home; Port - home; PICC line - home; Infusion therapy - home

Why would I need IV medicines at home?

You may need high doses of antibiotics or antibiotics that you cannot take by mouth.

  • You may have started IV antibiotics in the hospital that you need to keep getting for a while after you leave the hospital.
  • For example, infections in the lungs, bones, brain, or other parts of the body may be treated this way.

Other IV treatments you may receive after you leave the hospital include:

  • Treatment for hormone deficiencies
  • Medicines for severe nausea that cancer chemotherapy or pregnancy may cause
  • Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) for pain (this is IV medicine that patients give themselves)
  • Chemotherapy to treat cancer

You or your child may need total parenteral nutrition (TPN) after a hospital stay. TPN is a nutrition formula that is given through a vein.

You or your child may also need extra fluids through an IV.

Receiving intravenous treatments at home

Often, home health care nurses will come to your home to give you the medicine. Sometimes, a family member, a friend, or you yourself can give the IV medicine.

The nurse will check to make sure the IV is working well and there are no signs of infection. Then the nurse will give the medicine or other fluid. It will be given in one of the following ways:

  • A fast bolus, which means the medicine is given quickly, all at once.
  • A slow infusion, which means the medicine is given slowly over a long period.

After you receive your medicine, the nurse will wait to see if you have any bad reactions. If you are fine, the nurse will leave your home.

You or the nurse will put used needles in a needle (sharps) container. Used IV tubing, bags, gloves, and other disposable supplies can go in a plastic bag and be put in the trash.

Problems to watch for

Watch for these problems:

  • A hole in the skin where the IV is -- medicine or fluid can go into the tissue around the vein. This could harm the skin or tissue.
  • Swelling of the vein -- this can lead to a blood clot (called thrombophlebitis).

These rare problems may cause breathing or heart problems:

  • A bubble of air gets into the vein and travels to the heart or lungs (called an air embolism)
  • An allergic or other serious reaction to the medicine

Most times home health care nurses are available 24 hours a day. If there is a problem with the IV, you can call your home health care agency for help.

If the IV comes out of the vein:

  • First, put pressure over the opening where the IV was until the bleeding stops.
  • Then call the home health care agency or the doctor right away.

When to call your doctor or nurse

Call your doctor or nurse if you or your child have any signs of infection, such as:

  • Redness, swelling, or bruising at the site where the needle enters the vein
  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Fever over 100.5° F

Call 9-1-1 right away if you have:

  • Any breathing problems
  • A fast heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain

References

Intravascular therapy. Lippincott's Nursing Procedures. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:chap 6.

National Home Infusion Association. Infusion FAQs. 2014. http://www.nhia.org/faqs.cfm. Accessed May 11, 2014.

Updated: 5/11/2014

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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