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:
- Central venous catheter
- Central venous catheter - port
- Peripherally inserted central catheter
- Normal IV (one inserted into a vein just below your skin)
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.
Why You 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.
Used needles need to be disposed of 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 Health Care Provider
Call your health care provider 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
- Fever of 100.5°F (38°C) or higher
Call your local emergency number, such as 911, right away if you have:
- Any breathing problems
- A fast heart rate
- Chest pain
Home intravenous antibiotic therapy; Central venous catheter - home; Peripheral venous catheter - home; Port - home; PICC line - home; Infusion therapy - home; Home health care - IV treatment
National Home Infusion Association. Infusion FAQs. 2014. www.nhia.org/faqs.cfm. Accessed March 21, 2016.
Perry AG, Potter PA. Skill 35: Intravenous medications: intermittent infusion sets and mini-infusion pumps. In: Perry AG, Potter PA, eds. Mosby's Pocket Guide to Nursing Skills and Procedures. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014.
Perry AG, Potter PA. Skill 36: Intravenous medications: intravenous bolus. In: Perry AG, Potter PA, eds. Mosby's Pocket Guide to Nursing Skills and Procedures. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014.
Update Date 2/6/2016
Updated by: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.