IV’s (Intravenous)

IV or intravenous simply means in a vein. Many medications and fluids need to go directly into your vein in order to be most effective.

If you have a central line…

If you are going through chemotherapy, you will probably have a central line (either external or under the skin) to more easily get IV medications and blood transfusions, as well as have blood drawn. Everything you need is connected to your central line.

Most of your drugs and fluids go in (are infused) over a period of time through an IV line (tubing) that connects to an infusion pump. The pump keeps things flowing at a specific rate to ensure effective dosing. Your meds, fluids, and blood for transfusions are usually hung on an IV pole to which the pump or pumps are connected.

Depending on what you need, several different things may hang on an IV pole at the same time – chemo drugs, antibiotics, fluids, blood products, nutritional supplements, etc. The tricky part is maneuvering around with all this stuff attached to your body. You will soon get the hang of it – knowing just how to move so all your lines don’t get tangled up.

One more thing about those pumps…

Get used to them beeping! And learn how to use the silence button! The pumps ‘beep’ when the infusion is completed. They also beep if there is air in the line (potentially serious) or if the battery is low. But beware – they often beep for no reason – very annoying especially when you’re trying to sleep. You can hit the silence button while you’re waiting for your nurse to adjust the pump. In the meantime – just grin and bear it.

If you don’t have a central line…

If you don’t have a central line yet (some kids, depending on their treatment plan, never have one), you may need to have some IV procedures done with a venipuncture. This means a needle is inserted into a vein usually in your arm or your hand. If you are having blood drawn, a tube is attached to the needle to collect your blood sample. If you are having drugs or fluids infused, IV tubing is attached through which the substance flows. The same is true for a blood transfusion.

Getting stuck with needles for an IV is not usually real painful, but it’s not exactly comfortable either. See for yourself. (Note: This will require QuickTime Player – a free download). Some technicians and nurses are really good at it – others are not quite so adept. Whenever possible, use a good dose of EMLA cream before the poke (it takes at least an hour to work).

Also, if you are having routine IV’s without a central line, try to keep switching veins (if you can remember). It will give them a little time to recover.

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