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How Does Intravenous Immunoglobulin Work?

Reviewed on 7/9/2020

What is Intravenous Immunoglobulin?

Immune globulins are antibodies naturally produced by the body to fight off infection. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) contains a mixture of immunoglobulins (antibodies) from donor plasma.

What is Intravenous Immunoglobulin Used For?

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved uses for intravenous immunoglobulin include:

Off-label (not approved for use by the FDA for the condition) uses for intravenous immunoglobulin include:

How do Doctors Perform Intravenous Immunoglobulin Therapy?

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) liquid products are administered, as the name would imply, intravenously. 

  • IVIG is usually administered at a healthcare facility or an infusion center. In some cases, it may be administered in an at-home setting by a trained infusion nurse. 
  • Patients should be well hydrated before receiving IVIG infusion to prevent certain complications such as blood clots and kidney problems. 
  • Products should be administered at room temperature to minimize adverse effects.
  • The dose of IVIG depends on its purpose. 
    • Doses of 400 to 800 mg/kg/month are used to treat immune deficiencies, and may be given every three to four weeks. 
    • Doses ranging from 1-2 g/kg in a single dose are used in patients who need auto-inflammatory effects of IVIG.

How Does Intravenous Immunoglobulin Work?

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) provides the body with antibodies it is not producing on its own to help fight infections.

What are Risks and Complications of Intravenous Immunoglobulin?

Most side effects of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) are mild and temporary and occur soon after infusion, such as: 

Complications of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) include:

  • Serious allergic (anaphylactoid) reactions including eczema with itchy blisters
  • Acute kidney (renal) failure
  • Blood clots (rare)
  • Life-threatening human parvovirus B19 infection 
  • Life-threatening hepatitis C infection
  • Severe inflamed blood vessels in the skin (cutaneous vasculitis)
  • Heart attack
  • Aseptic meningitis (rare) 
  • High levels of protein in the blood (hyperproteinemia), increased serum viscosity, and pseudohyponatremia following infusion
  • Hair loss

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Reviewed on 7/9/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference
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