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What Are the Different Uses for a Fentanyl IV?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Fentanyl IV (intravenous) is a strong narcotic medication that is currently used to treat pain. It can also be an effective anesthetic when it is combined with other drugs. There are different forms of fentanyl that can be taken orally, injected or used as a skin patch. Generally, when the narcotic is delivered intravenously, it is almost always given in hospitals, surgical centers, or acute care settings.

Combining fentanyl IV with other medications can produce anesthesia. In these instances, the drug is mixed with various benzodiazepines to cause unconsciousness. Occasionally, the narcotic is used alone to create conscious sedation. Additionally, during surgeries with general anesthesia, fentanyl IV may be employed as an adjunct to minimize extreme stress or shock to the body from surgical interventions.

There are numerous applications for fentanyl IV when it comes to pain relief. Patients having any type of surgical procedure might be treated afterwards with the drug. When a person has received an extreme injury or burns, the strength of this narcotic is often preferred, since it is roughly 10 times stronger than morphine. The medication may also be useful to patients at the end of life who are in intense pain, such as from cancer.

As this medication has both anesthetic and painkilling properties, it can be helpful in the transition of patients from the operating room to recovery rooms. When it is used, surgeons and anesthesiologists don’t have to add additional drugs to provide pain relief. Reducing the number of medications a patient receives may avoid needless complications or drug reactions.

While the uses of fentanyl IV are numerous, the drug must be delivered with extreme care. Due to its anesthetic properties, this synthetic narcotic can cause excess sedation. It is a strong depressant of the central nervous system, reducing heart rate and slowing down respiratory function. These effects are most felt when large doses of the drug are given, but sometimes patients may need higher amounts for pain relief. When pain control needs are high, the narcotic should only be considered if it can be given in a heavily supervised environment.

For example, it might be inappropriate to give fentanyl IV in a convalescent home with less skilled nursing. Physicians could recommend lower doses, and sometimes do, or they might suggest using a fentanyl patch. This may be less sedating. There’s also concern about giving the narcotic to patients who are near the end of life because respiratory depression may hasten death.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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