An IV infusion is a method of giving medication into the bloodstream through a slow injection, or "drip," into a vein. "IV" stands for intravenous, which means "into a vein." IV infusions are used for medications that cannot reliably get into the bloodstream when given by other methods. Some MS medications are given by infusion, including:
- Tysabri® (natalizumab) – an MS treatment that is generally used for people who cannot take other MS treatments or in cases where other treatments have not worked. It is given to reduce the risk of relapses, slow the progression of disability, and reduce the number and size of damaged areas in the brain for people with the relapsing-remitting form of MS. Tysabri is given as an IV infusion over one hour, once every 4 weeks.
- Solu-Medrol® (methylprednisolone) – used to treat MS relapses. It works by reducing inflammation in the brain. The length of time for the infusion depends on the dose.
Since most doctors' offices are not equipped to give medications by infusion, infusions of MS medications are often given in an MS infusion center. This specialized clinic is staffed by doctors and nurses with experience and in-depth knowledge in MS treatment and infusions.
Here's what happens during a typical infusion:
- Before the infusion, a nurse or doctor will review your MS symptoms, ask some questions to ensure that the medication is still safe and appropriate for you, and check your vital signs (your pulse, blood pressure, breathing rate, and temperature).
- Next, you will sit in a comfortable chair, the nurse will insert a needle into a vein in your arm, and the medication will be given as slowly into the vein.
- During your infusion, you will be monitored by a healthcare professional to check for side effects, allergic reactions or problems with the infusion. Let your health professional know if you become uncomfortable or notice any symptoms that worry you.
- To pass the time during your infusion, you can read, watch TV, listen to music, or chat with others who are having their infusions at the centre.
- After the infusion, you will need to remain in the infusion centre for a while to make sure you are not having any reactions to the medication.
Most manufacturers of MS medications offer a toll-free support line that can assist you with questions about the medication. Support programs may also be available to offer you more information relating to MS and the medication you are using. Check with your doctor or nurse to find out if there is a toll-free support number for your medication.
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