What Is IV Vitamin Therapy?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Intravenous (IV) vitamin therapy delivers vitamins directly to the bloodstream. It may be medically recommended for the management of some forms of malnutrition and specific conditions, as part of a larger treatment plan to medically stabilize a patient. Some practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine also endorse IV vitamin therapy for the treatment of disease. This practice has not been subjected to extensive clinical trials and peer-reviewed research, making it difficult to verify some of the claims made by supporters.

An IV drip used for vitamin therapy.
An IV drip used for vitamin therapy.

Nutritionally, adequate vitamin intake is critically important. Many people get the vitamins and minerals they need from their diets, although oral supplementation may be recommended for deficiencies or temporary medical issues. Pregnant women, for example, may decide to take more folic acid to promote fetal health, because they don’t get enough to meet the needs of the fetus through their diets. In some cases, IV vitamin therapy may be necessary.

A patient receives vitamin therapy intravenously.
A patient receives vitamin therapy intravenously.

Emergency departments once used IV vitamin therapy for alcoholics, on the grounds that many experienced nutritional deficiencies and needed a quick dose of vitamins if they were coming into the emergency department for care. Other vitamins and minerals can be delivered selectively on an emergency basis to patients with specific deficiencies that need to be addressed. Intravenous vitamin C is also sometimes recommended for wound healing, particularly after surgery, because patients may not get enough of the vitamin orally.

Some medical practitioners believe IV vitamin therapy with vitamin C can be effective for cancer. Some studies show that the medication may help in cancer treatment, but it does not appear to be effective independently. Other proponents of IV vitamin therapy suggest it can help with issues like fatigue or depression. Patients may receive a customized vitamin cocktail intravenously over the course of one or more sessions.

The use of IV vitamin therapy in situations where a patient doesn’t have a specific nutritional deficiency that needs immediate medical attention has not been extensively studied. Some patients may experience benefits, but the lack of empirical studies makes it difficult to generalize results. Patients looking for more information can check medical journals for the latest research on IV vitamin therapy to learn more about where and when it is recommended. Those considering it as a complementary therapy may want to discuss it with a primary care provider to find out if there are any contraindications like potential drug interactions that might make it ill advised.

Mary McMahon
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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