Can Insulin Be Given Intravenously?

Reviewed on 7/9/2020

What Is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced in the beta cells of the pancreas. Insulin helps the body convert glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood into energy. After eating and digesting food, glucose levels in the body rise, and insulin is released to help the body use or store the sugar from food. On the cellular level, insulin helps transport glucose into the body cells where it is turned into energy.

What Is Intravenous Insulin Used For?

Insulin is used to treat diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin and they need insulin injections so the body can use the glucose from meals. 

People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their bodies do not respond properly to it. This is called “insulin resistance.” Some people with type 2 diabetes need insulin shots, though most are treated with pills and diet changes. 

Can Insulin Be Given IV?

In most cases, insulin is administered by injection or infusion. 

Patients with high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) are at risk for adverse outcomes and infections and certain diabetic patients may benefit from intravenous insulin, such as:

  • Patients undergo open cardiac surgery and are susceptible to deep wound infections
  • Patients with diabetes who do not have adequate glucose control with conventional subcutaneous insulin treatment 

What Are Side Effects of Intravenous Insulin?

The main side effect of intravenous insulin is low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Shaking or feeling jittery
  • Sweating
  • Hunger
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Sleepiness/tiredness
  • Dizziness 
  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion 
  • Disorientation
  • Pale skin
  • Loss of coordination
  • Irritability 
  • Nervousness
  • Becoming argumentative or combative
  • Changed behavior or personality
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Weakness

Symptoms of severe hypoglycemia include:

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Reviewed on 7/9/2020
Medscape Medical Reference