Iron Infusion

Iron is one of the minerals in the human body. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make hemoglobin, and you may develop anemia. One way of treating anemia is with intravenous iron, or an iron infusion, which is delivered into a vein through a needle to increase the levels of iron and hemoglobin in your body.


A person receives an iron infusion through an IV in their hand.
If you don’t have enough iron in your body, an iron infusion can add iron through your vein.

What is an iron infusion?

An iron infusion is a way to receive iron through a small catheter in your vein. Intravenous (IV) iron supplementation is another name for this. A healthcare provider performs this procedure in a medical office or clinic.

If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make hemoglobin. This protein helps blood carry oxygen throughout your body. With this issue, you may develop anemia. This is known as iron-deficiency anemia, the most common type of anemia.

Factors that can lower your body’s supply of iron include:

  • Blood loss from ulcers, some cancers and other conditions or during monthly periods.
  • A diet that doesn’t have enough iron in it.
  • Medications that interfere with your body’s ability to absorb iron.
  • An increase in your body’s need for iron (for instance, during pregnancy).

How common is an iron infusion?

Getting iron through an infusion isn’t as common as getting oral (by mouth) iron. Healthcare providers prescribe oral iron supplements first. That works for many people, but some people need to receive iron through an IV if their iron levels are very low.

Why is an iron infusion done?

People usually receive IV iron infusions because they can’t take oral (by mouth) iron. These include people who:

  • Have bleeding in their gastrointestinal tract (gut) and need to replace iron quickly. (Your body absorbs IV iron more rapidly than iron you swallow.)
  • Have inflammatory bowel disease (diseases of the intestines that cause pain, diarrhea and weight loss), and can’t take oral iron because it upsets their gastrointestinal tract.
  • Are on dialysis and often lose blood during dialysis. In addition, these people are usually taking an erythropoietin-stimulating agent (ESA) and may need extra iron.
  • Have iron-deficiency anemia and are having high blood loss surgery (> 500 milliliters) within the next two months and need to replace iron quickly.
  • Have celiac disease (gluten intolerance).
  • Have cancer and anemia and are taking an ESA.
  • Have tried oral iron, but it didn’t work well for them.
  • Have a vascular condition that makes them lose a lot of blood.
  • Need to increase their iron level quickly because of pregnancy or severe anemia.

What iron level requires an iron infusion?

It depends on the reason you’re taking it. Different conditions require different iron levels. A healthcare provider may give you an IV iron infusion sooner for one condition than another.

How many iron infusions do you need?

You may only need one dose of some iron infusions. With others, you’ll need one or two doses over the course of several weeks until your iron level is where it should be. It can take two months to fix your iron level and correct anemia.


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Procedure Details

What happens before an iron infusion?

A healthcare provider will decide how much iron you need. They can calculate the dose you need based on your weight and how much hemoglobin you have.

Be sure to tell your provider about:

  • Your medical conditions.
  • Allergies you have.
  • Medications you take.
  • Supplements you take without a prescription.

What happens during an iron infusion?

During an iron infusion, a provider will:

  1. Clean the area where the IV will go into the skin on your arm or hand.
  2. Put a needle into the vein they select. The needle has a plastic IV tube on one end to use later.
  3. Tape the IV to your arm so it doesn’t move around.
  4. Hang the fluid bag on an IV stand.
  5. Start a machine that pumps the fluid into your vein.

How long does an iron infusion take?

An IV iron infusion can take 15 to 30 minutes. You can get a typical dose of 1,000 milligrams of iron in that time.

What should I expect after an iron infusion?

A healthcare provider will monitor you for 30 minutes or more after your iron infusion. They do this to make sure you don’t have a bad reaction.

How quickly does an iron infusion work?

It depends on your situation. Normally, it may take several days to a week after you start your iron supplement before you start to feel better. Continue to watch your symptoms and take note of side effects the iron infusion might cause. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your healthcare provider.


Risks / Benefits

What are the advantages of an iron infusion?

An iron infusion quickly brings your iron level up. Today’s iron infusions work better than the ones in the past. Multiple studies have found that an iron infusion is more effective and more tolerable than the oral (by mouth) kind. They also rarely cause a major reaction.

What are the side effects of an iron infusion?

Iron infusion side effects are usually minimal, but may include:

  • Bloating or swelling of your face, arms, hands, lower legs or feet.
  • Dizziness, faintness or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position.
  • Gastrointestinal pains, including nausea, cramps or diarrhea.
  • Problems with breathing.
  • Constipation (difficulty pooping).
  • Headache.
  • Joint or muscle pain.
  • Skin problems, including rash.
  • Chest pain.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Anaphylaxis (a severe reaction that can include difficulty breathing, itching or a rash over your entire body).


Recovery and Outlook

How long does it take to recover from an iron infusion?

People usually feel better a few days to a week after an iron infusion.

When To Call the Doctor

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Contact your provider if you have side effects that you can’t manage.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Taking iron supplements by mouth works for many people, but it may not be right for you. The good news is that iron infusions have come a long way. Today’s medicines can deliver high doses of iron in a short amount of time — usually without a bad reaction. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your iron infusion if there’s anything that isn’t clear.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 08/30/2023.

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