What is IV Therapy? - Definition, History, Types & Complications

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  • 0:00 Definition Of IV Therapy
  • 0:10 A Brief History Of IV Therapy
  • 1:16 The Three Types Of IV Therapy
  • 2:55 Complications Of IV Therapy
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brenda Ware
This lesson introduces the lifesaving medical therapy of intravenous infusions. You will learn about the different types of intravenous solutions used and their clinical applications. Common complications of this treatment will also be discussed.

Definition of IV Therapy

Intravenous (IV) therapy is the administration of a fluid substance (solution) directly into a vein as a therapeutic treatment.

A Brief History of IV Therapy

Blood therapy dates back to ancient times when bloodletting and leeches were used to extract illness from the infirmed. Drinking blood and bathing in blood were common as means to heal illness or to rejuvenate life. The first attempts at IV therapy began in the early 17th century, but complications and poor results caused the practice to be abandoned.

It was not until the 19th century during the cholera epidemic (with dehydration being the primary fatal mechanism) that the practice was revisited. Access complications and the development of sepsis limited the use to only the most critical of patients.

In the 20th century with blood typing, which is the discovery of blood groups, and pyrogens, which are infectious agents, IV therapy became a viable treatment during WWI and WWII. With the advent of plastic bags and plastic IV catheters in the late 20th century and the use of modern infection control practices, IV therapy has become a practical, beneficial, lifesaving therapeutic treatment.

The Three Types of IV Therapy

There are basically three types of IV therapy. There is therapy to provide fluids, to give drugs, or to administer blood products. Let's look at three situations which might call for each of these types of IV therapy:

Johnnie is a young man who has been in a motorcycle accident. He is taken to the hospital by an ambulance. In the ambulance, the paramedics insert an IV catheter in his arm. Next, the paramedics hang a bag of IV solution to keep Johnnie hydrated and to replace any blood volume that he might have loss in the accident.

Johnnie arrives at the emergency department. He has many cuts and bruises and is in a great deal of pain. The emergency nurses inject pain medication into the IV. This is known as an IV push.

Once Johnnie is determined to be stable, he is sent to a medical unit for further observation and care. His wounds are cleaned and dressed. The physician prescribes an antibiotic to prevent serious infections from the open wounds. The drug will be diluted in a bag of fluid attached to the existing IV tubing and administered slowly. This type of IV administration is known as an IV piggy back, officially called a secondary additive.

Johnnie's pain has been managed and he is resting comfortably. New laboratory results come back that show he has lost too much blood and his red blood cell count is too low. The physician writes an order for Johnnie to receive a blood transfusion, which is when people receive a donor's blood that is the same type as theirs to replace any lost blood.

After the blood transfusion, Johnnie's laboratory results are normal. He continues his care for about a week, and then he is sent home to recover.

Complications of IV Therapy

IV therapy is not without complications. Patients receiving IV therapy may suffer from over hydration, due too much fluid, or dehydration, due to not enough or the wrong type of fluid.

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