An iron infusion is a procedure used to deliver a dose of iron to the body intravenously. It can be used to increase iron levels quickly and may be used to treat severe cases of anemia.

Iron infusion is a procedure in which iron is delivered to your body intravenously, meaning into a vein through a needle. This is also known as an intravenous (IV) infusion.

A doctor may prescribe an iron infusion to treat severe iron deficiency anemia. Doctors usually treat iron deficiency anemia with dietary changes and iron supplement pills. In some cases, though, doctors may recommend iron infusions instead.

You may need an IV infusion if you:

  • can’t take iron by mouth
  • can’t absorb iron adequately through the gut
  • can’t absorb enough iron due to blood loss
  • need to increase iron levels fast to avoid medical complications or a blood transfusion

A doctor will give you specific instructions for preparing for your first iron infusion treatment. Some things you can do to prepare on the day of your infusion include:

  • eating breakfast and lunch, as there is no need to fast for an iron infusion
  • taking regular medications
  • being prepared to have a small IV drip put in your arm or hand

You may feel nervous about your iron infusion. You can help reduce anxieties by discussing the procedure with a doctor first. They can recommend ways to help you stay comfortable and relaxed during the procedure.

Tips for comfort

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Have drinking water available.
  • Listen to music.
  • Watch a film or TV show on a tablet or smartphone.
  • Read a book or magazine.
Was this helpful?

Learn about intravenous medication administration.

An iron infusion usually takes place at a hospital or hemodialysis center. A doctor or other healthcare professional, such as a nurse, uses a needle to insert a small tube into a vein. This small tube is known as a catheter. It’s usually put into a vein in your arm or hand. Then, the healthcare professional will remove the needle, leaving the catheter in your vein.

The catheter is attached to a long tube, which is connected to an IV bag of iron. The iron has been diluted with a saline solution. This solution is either pumped into your vein or uses gravity to slowly drip down the tube and into your vein.

You may feel a slight pinch in your skin where the IV needle is inserted. There may also be some pressure at the insertion site during the procedure.

The doctor performing the procedure will give you a test dose first to ensure you don’t have any adverse reactions from the iron. If you do, they will stop the procedure.

An iron infusion can take up to 3 or 4 hours. You should expect to remain seated for this time. In some cases, the infusion may take a little longer, depending on the level of treatment the doctor thinks you need.

If it’s your first iron infusion, a nurse may administer a smaller test dose to see how you tolerate the infusion. Then, they may administer the infusion slowly to help prevent complications.

It often takes several iron infusions to bring the body’s iron levels to the appropriate levels. You may receive infusions over one or a few weeks for your treatments. Iron infusions take time and can be more expensive than other types of anemia treatments.

After the infusion, you can return to your daily activities straight away. Most people can drive themselves home. If you feel up to it, you can go to work after your infusion.

You may have some side effects right after the procedure. Most of them are mild. These include:

Serious side effects

A rare but serious complication from iron infusions is iron toxicity. The symptoms of iron toxicity may come on quickly, which can cause anaphylactic shock. Or they may come on slowly over time. Iron toxicity that develops over time leads to too much iron in the body’s tissues.

Healthcare professionals use a test dose and slow infusion rate to prevent this complication. The test dose is also important if you have a history of multiple drug allergies. A doctor will use the test dose to monitor you for any reactions. These reactions can include:

Iron infusions involve delivering a dose of iron through the vein with an IV drip, while with an iron injection, a medical professional injects iron into a muscle with a needle. The injection is usually done into the buttocks. Iron infusions may take up to several hours, whereas iron injections deliver a whole dose immediately.

Iron infusions tend to be less painful than iron injections. Injections can also cause intramuscular bleeding and orange discoloration. Because of these possible complications, doctors often favor iron infusions over iron injections to treat iron deficiency anemia.

If you’re pregnant, your need for iron increases as the fetus develops. As the fetus absorbs iron from your body, iron levels may drop, resulting in anemia. For that reason, doctors sometimes order iron infusions for pregnant people.

Infusions are often preferred over oral iron supplements because taking them by mouth can cause gastrointestinal side effects. However, iron infusions are usually reserved for the second or third trimester of pregnancy. It’s not yet known whether administering iron infusions during the first trimester is safe.

An iron infusion helps increase the body’s iron levels more quickly than supplements or dietary changes. This can be helpful in situations where anemia is severe.

The physical benefits of an iron infusion include increased energy and easier breathing.

You should start feeling these benefits a few weeks after your final infusion treatment. How long these benefits last depends on the cause of your iron deficiency anemia and whether or not you’re using any other therapies to increase your iron levels.

For example, regular blood loss, such as through menstruation, may lead to a chronic drop in iron levels. Depending on your situation, the benefits of an iron infusion may last anywhere from several months to a few years.

A doctor may recommend additional iron-increasing therapies, such as supplementation and dietary changes, which can increase the iron your body absorbs from foods and prolong the benefits.

How long does it take to recover from iron infusion?

You typically do not need to recover from an iron infusion. You can return to your daily activities when the infusion is complete.

What does an iron infusion do to your body?

An iron infusion increases the amount of iron in your bloodstream. A doctor may recommend multiple infusions, depending on your iron levels and the reason for your iron deficiency.

Is it worth getting an iron infusion?

An iron infusion helps quickly treat severe iron-deficiency anemia. A few weeks after completing your infusions, you may see benefits such as improved energy and easier breathing.

How many sessions of iron infusions do you need?

The number of iron infusions you need can depend on the cause and severity of your iron deficiency.

Doctors recommend iron infusions through an IV in cases of severe iron-deficiency anemia. You may need a few sessions to improve your iron levels.

You can typically return to your daily activities when the infusion is complete, but it may take multiple sessions to notice the benefits.