Medical professionals administer intravenous fluids by cleaning the skin around the injection site, locating a vein and inserting an intravenous catheter into that vein, according to Healthline. The health professional then adjusts the flow rate of fluid into the catheter manually or by changing the flow rate on an electric infusion pump.
Most hospitalized patients receive intravenous fluids through an infusion pump, reports Modern Medicine Network. New smart infusion pumps recognize drug settings that contradict a hospital's recommended drug guidelines and alerts the health care professional to the discrepancy using an alarm. Medical professionals can sometimes override a soft alarm, depending on their institutions' policies, but hard alarms require that the flow rate and dosage be reprogrammed to meet normal levels. This technology prevents adverse drug effects caused by incorrectly programmed pumps.
Intravenous fluids are typically medications or water with added salt or sugar, explains Healthline. Medical professionals use intravenous fluids to deliver antibiotics to patients with infections, to administer chemotherapy to cancer patients or to distribute pain medication. Some patients need intravenous fluids when they become dehydrated due to strenuous activities or serious illness.
The risks of using intravenous fluids include infection, collapsed veins and dislocated needles, notes Healthline. If the flow rate of the intravenous fluids is too fast, overload can occur. Overload is dangerous for patients with certain medical conditions, and it can cause high blood pressure, difficulty breathing and headaches.