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What Is Involved in Intravenous Fluid Administration?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Intravenous fluid administration involves selecting appropriate fluids and establishing a method of delivery to get them into the patient’s veins. While receiving fluids, patients also need to be monitored for signs of fluid overload, which can occur if the wrong fluids are given or the delivery is not well controlled. Giving fluids is a common response to cases of shock and suspected dehydration, and it can also be routine in preparing patients for surgery and helping them recover. A number of different solutions are available to provide adequate treatment.

Ideally, patients should take fluids orally. This may not be an option in cases where the fluid balance is extremely low or the patient is vomiting. Delivering them directly into the bloodstream can help stabilize blood pressure and electrolytes, but care must be taken to keep the patient in homeostasis. The delivery of straight water during intravenous fluid administration, for example, could lower salts in the blood to a dangerous level and cause serious complications for the patient. This can include brain herniation, as cells in the brain may swell with water and rupture.

Solutions include a mixture of water and a substance like salt or glucose. The precise concentration of the solution for intravenous fluid administration can depend on the patient’s needs, and may be calculated by care providers. Patients in severe dehydration or shock because of blood loss need rehydration but it must be balanced to prevent complications. A standard solution like lactated Ringer’s may be used as a base, and care providers can also add vitamins and minerals if this is necessary.

The process starts with finding a good point for injection, usually in the arm. If the patient has an existing intravenous line, the care provider may be able to piggyback into it with the intravenous fluids. Catheters inserted into intravenous lines to provide access can have several ports for just this eventuality. Another option is to place a needle for intravenous fluid administration, in which case the care provider will need to swab the arm, carefully insert the needle, and tape it in place so it doesn’t move.

As intravenous fluid administration proceeds, care providers can adjust the rate of the drip to allow the fluid to circulate throughout the body. If it contains a medication, it may be important to deliver it slowly over a controlled time period. Drugs delivered too quickly can cause complications. The patient’s blood may be periodically drawn to test levels of sodium and other electrolytes to confirm the patient isn’t being overloaded with fluids.

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.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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