Treating Anemia with Iron Infusions

 In Hematology

You may think there is an easy fix after being diagnosed with iron deficiency, with or without anemia. “I’ll just take some iron tabs and be fine!” Although this is true for some people with an iron deficiency or iron-deficiency anemia, it can be much more complicated for others.

Iron-deficiency anemia

Anemia is the most common blood disorder, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and affects more than 3 million Americans. Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. This type of anemia occurs when you don’t have enough iron in your body.

Iron deficiency is generally due to blood loss but may also be due to poor absorption of iron. Pregnancy-related anemia can occur during pregnancy and childbirth, consuming a large amount of iron. People who have had gastric bypass surgery for weight loss or surgery for other reasons can also become iron deficient due to poor iron absorption after their procedure.

Treating iron-deficiency anemia

Doctors sometimes prescribe oral medication to treat Iron-deficiency anemia, while others prefer their patients be treated intravenously (IV), or through a vein. When determining which iron therapy is right for you, oral or IV, it is essential to consider several factors, including:

Age

Intravenous iron infusions are used more commonly in adults particularly in adults with ongoing bleeding or after gastric bypass surgery, a procedure that makes it more difficult to absorb iron. Children and infants have traditionally been treated with oral iron supplements, except in rare situations such as children who are unable to absorb oral iron due to gastrointestinal issues.

Cost

Oral iron is less expensive, readily available over the counter and may be the only choice for some anemia patients. IV iron must be administered in a certified infusion center or hospital, making it more costly, but this form of treatment typically has a better absorption rate.

Absorption

Many people who opt for IV iron are unable to absorb iron orally. This may be due to celiac disease, gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease or after a Whipple procedure.

Tolerance

Although oral iron is less expensive, nearly 70% of patients taking oral iron suffer gastrointestinal side effects. These side effects can include:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting

The liquid form of oral iron also has a metallic taste and can stain teeth. These side effects are common reasons patients often don’t take iron supplements as recommended by their doctor and another reason iron infusions may be the best choice.

Length of treatment

Oral iron can often take months to counteract anemia entirely and even longer to restore iron in the body to normal levels. IV iron can correct iron deficiencies with one or two doses.

Cause of anemia

People with iron-deficiency anemia caused by ongoing blood loss often require regular infusions of iron to maintain the iron levels their body needs.

What happens during an iron infusion

An iron infusion usually takes place at a certified infusion center or a hospital. A doctor or nurse will use a needle to place a small tube, known as a catheter, into a vein. The catheter is generally put into a vein in the hand or arm. Then, the doctor or nurse will remove the needle, leaving the catheter in the vein.

The catheter is connected by a tube to an IV bag of iron. The iron in the bag is diluted with a saline solution. This iron solution is either pumped into the vein or uses gravity to drip down the tube into the body slowly.

Iron infusions don’t hurt, although you may feel a slight pinch when the IV needle is inserted or light pressure at the insertion site during the procedure. The doctor performing your iron infusion will first administer a test dose to ensure there are no adverse reactions.

Where to get iron infusions in the Triangle

Personalized Hematology/Oncology of Wake Forest is a certified infusion center serving Raleigh and the surrounding area. We treat many blood disorders including iron-deficiency anemia using infusions. Our facility offers an intimate setting where infusions are administered. We know infusion therapy can seem scary at first, so we are here to make you as comfortable as possible.To learn more about our practice or to make an appointment, please contact us today.

 

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