Having had my first iron infusion this year prior to my 5th op, I thought I’d share a little on the procedure and what to expect. It’s also worth keeping this in mind if you are iron deficient but have absorption problems or don’t tolerate iron tablets.
What Is Ferinject?
The intravenous (IV) iron that’s used commonly in the UK is referred to as Ferinject.
It’s a way of boosting iron levels, such as in those with anaemia, quickly, efficiently and more significantly than other treatments, such as supplements or dietary changes. Those with absorption problems or severe anaemia may require IV iron in this way.
To ensure you get the best amount of iron, the element that’s vital for red blood cells and muscle tissue, you’ll need your levels checked through a blood test and your weight recorded.
Who Needs It?
Those who are iron deficient (anaemic) and who can’t tolerate or absorb iron orally. It’s a quicker option for upping levels, so it’s often used pre-surgery when time is of the essence.
Who Shouldn’t Have Ferinject & Other Considerations
There are some instances where Ferinject should not be given, such as :
- If you have severe allergic atopic reactions, severe eczema or severe asthma
- If you’re allergic to any part of the Ferinject preparation
- Those with anaemia that’s not a result of iron deficiency (ie. inflammatory conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis).
- If you already have to much iron in your blood or issues with iron utilisation
- Those under 14 years of age
Make sure you tell your GP and nurse of any conditions you have, in particular things like allergies, eczema, asthma, liver problems or infections.
Ferinject consists of 0.24mmol / 5.5mg sodium p/millilitre of undiluted solution, and therefore if you are reducing your sodium for health reasons you should raise this.
You should also cover the medications you have been taking, both prescribed and over the counter. If there’s any chance you could be pregnant, this also needs to be mentioned, as does whether you currently breastfeed.
The information provided states it is ‘unlikely’ to affect driving or machine operating, but it does come with some possible side-effects.
For instance, the ‘common’ side-effects include :
Nausea, rash, constipation / diarrhoea, dizziness, headache, abdominal pain.
The ‘uncommon’ ones include the likes of :
Low / high blood pressure, itchiness, muscle or joint pain, chest pain, flushing, vomiting, indigestion, tingling/numbing of the skin, and tiredness. Shortness of breath is considered a ‘rare side effect’.
A cannula will be placed into a vein in your arm. You will either receive Ferinject through an injection into this, where the preparation is undiluted, or as a drip where it’s diluted with some sodium chloride. The latter seems to be the most common, so the cannula will be hooked up to the fluid bag containing up to 250ml, and this will gradually drip down. In general, it lasts up to 15 minutes. During this time, you will be closely monitored by the nurses. They are the ones who decide the best method of administration, the duration and the dose that’s best for your individual circumstances.
You will likely be given a little leaflet on the procedure before/after the treatment with contact details should you have any concerns or worries about possible side-effects later on.
You’ll typically be kept in the area for a while thereafter, just to ensure you are okay and safe to leave. You can then go about your day as normal (whatever normal is for you personally).
I was given IV iron prior to my last surgery because of anaemia and not tolerating or absorbing oral iron well. It also needed to boost my levels fairly quickly, so I was checked a week after the infusion to make sure the levels were back to satisfactory, which they were.
I went to a health centre (one I never knew existed), rather than a hospital or GP surgery. I got lucky because the staff were lovely, welcoming, friendly and put me at ease. They also knew what they were doing and were adept at talking me through what was involved and answering any questions I had.
There wasn’t any pain involved for me, and no side-effects either, I’m glad to report. In total, I was probably there for about 1.5hrs. I arrived a little early, the appointment started about 10 minutes late, which was fine, and there was a decent amount of time taken to set it all up, go through what would happen, and answer their questions regarding my health and medications. It took just under 15 minutes once the IV was started as the amount was reduced a tad to suit my BMI. After that, I was watched for 20 or so minutes to make sure I was okay. I had some water, felt fine, and was back on my way driving home.
All in all, this was a positive one for me in terms of the experience of having it done, and the effectiveness of the treatment to boost my levels at that time. Of course, experiences of such things are different for everyone, but it helps to be prepared and know roughly what to expect. I’m due another blood test soon to see whether regular infusions may be necessary, but I wouldn’t have any hesitation about needing it done again. If you’re anaemic but don’t absorb or tolerate other iron formulations, this is something you may wish to discuss with your GP to see whether this is a possible option for you.