Infusion therapy is used for conditions that either do not respond to oral medications or require a long duration of administration. It is also used to deliver medications that are not available in pill form, such as blood products and chemotherapy agents. Infusion therapy enables the delivery of medications to patients with impaired gastrointestinal systems, where the stomach or intestinal tract is unable to properly process and metabolize oral medications. Infusion therapy is also useful for the delivery of pain medication, with portable infusion pumps delivering measured doses of pain medication as needed.
The therapy consists of the delivery of medication through a needle or catheter. The medication is injected intravenously, intramuscularly, or into the membranes around the spinal cord. Injected medications can be used by the body almost immediately, whereas oral medications may be rendered ineffective after passing through the stomach and intestinal tract. The therapy can be a slow process and take hours to complete. It can be performed in a hospital, an outpatient infusion suite, or at home under the supervision of an infusion therapist.
Many different diseases and conditions respond to this therapy, including certain infections, cancers, multiple sclerosis, hemophilia, and immune deficiencies. Infections are often treated with oral antibiotics, but serious infections, such as cellulitis or sepsis, need a more aggressive treatment. This type of therapy delivers antibiotics directly into the patient’s system. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are often treated with intravenous antibiotics as the bacteria are resistant to most oral antibiotics.
Some types of cancer respond better to chemotherapy infusion than to chemotherapy in pill form. Other diseases require treatment with products that are not available in pill form and must be administered by infusion. Immunoglobulin, a blood product, is used to manage multiple sclerosis and is administered to the patient with infusion therapy. Hemophilia and immune disorders are also treated with blood products delivered intravenously.
Mineral and vitamin deficiency disorders are sometimes caused by a patient’s inability to properly absorb and metabolize necessary nutrients through the gastrointestinal system. Therapy by infusion bypasses the gastrointestinal system and supplies the needed nutrients intravenously. This therapy is often used in patients with anemia caused by their inability to absorb iron properly.
Aside from conditions that are best treated with infusion therapy, there are a number of times when the therapy is substituted for conventional treatment. Physical limitations, such as swallowing disorders, may call for infusion treatment. Or an intolerance to a traditional oral medication may necessitate the intravenous delivery of medication as well.