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IV treatment at home

Most people want to go home from the hospital as soon as possible. But sometimes they need to continue taking medicines or other treatments at home.

IV means giving medicines or fluids through a needle or tube (catheter) that goes into a vein. It includes any type of tube or catheter that goes into the vein, such as a:

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

Alternate Names

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

Why Would I Need IV Medicines at Home?

You may need high doses of antibiotics or special types of 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 medicines you may receive after you leave the hospital are:

  • 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 special nutrition formula that is given through a vein in the body.

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 your medicine. Sometimes a family member, friend, or you can give the IV medicine.

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

  • A fast bolus, which means you will get it quickly all at once, or
  • A slow infusion, which means the medicine is given very slowly over a long period of time.

After you receive your medicine, the nurse will wait to see if you have any bad reaction. 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 your skin where the IV is -- medicine or fluid can go into the tissue around the vein. This could harm your skin or tissue.
  • Swelling of your 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 your 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 you have a problem with your IV, you can call your home health care agency for help.

If the IV comes out of your vein:

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

When to Call Your Doctor or Nurse

Call your doctor or nurse if you have these signs of infection:

  • Redness, swelling, or bruising at the site where the needle enters the vein
  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Fever over 100.5 oF (38.0 oC)

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

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

References

Intravascular therapy. Best Practices: Evidenced-based Nursing Procedures. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2007.

Updated: 5/17/2012

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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