IV acetaminophen refers to the administration of intravenous acetaminophen, a pain and fever relieving medication. It is administered through an intravenous drip approximately every six hours. Administering IV acetaminophen is done only done in a hospital setting and is sometimes used to manage moderate to severe pain in conjunction with morphine or other opioid based medication. It is also used to reduce fever in those who are unable to swallow oral medications.
Even though IV acetaminophen is effective in treating pain, it is not recommended for use in treating conditions involving inflammation, such as sprains or inflammatory joint conditions. It is also not recommended for those who have liver conditions, such as liver failure, cirrhosis, or hepatitis, because IV acetaminophen, as well as oral acetaminophen, can worsen liver conditions.
The standard IV acetaminophen dose is generally administered over approximately 15 minutes. When taken in conjunction with other medications, IV acetaminophen can sometimes cause negative reactions. These medications include barbiturates, codeine, and medications used to thin the blood. People who drink excessively are more likely to have toxic reactions to IV acetaminophen than those who do not. The risk of liver damage is also higher in those who drink and take acetaminophen through any route, including the oral route.
Rarely, acetaminophen given via the IV route can cause allergic reactions. These reactions include itching, rash, wheezing, and swelling of the throat, mouth, tongue or lips. Also, difficulty breathing, chest pain or pressure and shortness of breath can occur. These are considered medical emergencies and when they occur, immediate medical intervention needs to be instituted.
Pregnant women may not be appropriate candidates for intravenous acetaminophen, although oral acetaminophen is generally considered very safe to take when pregnant. Intravenous acetaminophen might also pass through the breast milk of nursing mothers, so prior to the administration of this medication, the health care provider should decide whether it is safe to pursue this method of pain relief.
Intravenous acetaminophen is not available for home use, so its administration is usually safely monitored by health care professionals. When side effects or adverse reactions occur, they are generally recognized quickly and appropriate treatment instituted. When reactions occur, the intravenous acetaminophen line is usually discontinued and another method of pain relief is generally administered. Minor side effects that do not warrant discontinuation of treatment include mild redness, swelling, and irritation of the IV entry site.