Infusion therapies are treatments received intravenously, as in, directly to the veins, of a patient. Most often a needle or catheter is inserted into the arm but alternative placements are possible based on a patient’s needs. Infusion therapies are beneficial for treating many chronic and immunosuppressive diseases including Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, MS, Common Variable Immune Deficiency, and Rheumatoid Arthritis, among many others. For all the diseases that are treatable through infusion therapy, there are just as many drugs including IVIg, Remicade®, Tysabri®, and Reclast, just to name a few.
IVIg is one of the most common infusion therapies that patients receive as it is able to help with a variety of diseases.
The average person has lots of things floating around in their bloodstream: red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma… we remember this from Bio 101 or at least The Magic School Bus. One of the parts of the bloodstream is something called antibodies —they’re part of the white blood cell group and help fight off infections. Without getting too technical these antibodies are called immunoglobulin and there are a lot of different types: IgM, IgG, IgA, etc. If you’ve ever given blood or at least seen someone give blood, you might have noticed a machine used on some donors to separate the blood, which are given back to the donor, from the plasma. The plasma is taken, combined with other donors’ plasma, and purified for the IgG. This is our ‘Ig’ in the ‘IVIg’ and it takes hundreds of donors to make just one dose. During the purification process plasma from 10,000 – 50,000 carefully screened individuals are used.
Fun Science: Using IgG to boost immunity is called passive immunization. It occurs naturally from mother to fetus or via IVIg and antiserum. IgG is the smallest of the immunoglobulin which is one of the reasons why it can pass to the child.
Ig was initially used during World War II to fight off infectious diseases and in 1952 was given as a primary immunodeficiency treatment. It was originally given as a deep injection into the muscle until the early 1980’s. While those who may need an immunity boost due to being in an area with high risk of disease, like measles, are still given intramuscular shots, we benefit from modern medicine and most patients receive IVIg intravenously (this is the ‘IV’ of our ‘IVIg’).
IVIg, unfortunately, does not stimulate the patient’s immune system into creating its own Ig but just replaces what the body is not able to make. Antibodies must constantly be replenished as they are “used up”. This is called being metabolized and about half of infused Ig are metabolized in 3-4 weeks. For this, a person in need of IVIg will need continual, regular treatments for their lifetime. Patients may notice that around their next appointment they are feeling weaker due to the lower Ig count. Dosage and time vary with each individual but infusion times are typically 2-4 hours. Most people tolerate to Ig very well but a low fever, achy muscles or joints, or a headache are not uncommon. Most side effects can be treated with common medicines if need be but patients should call their doctor if they experience hives, tightness in their chest, wheezing, or if their headache does not go away after taking medication.
At Integrated Neurology Services our Infusion Suite is set up to handle any of your IV needs. Our treatment center is equipped with reclining chairs, state of the art infusion pumps, TVs, and free WiFi. Your care and comfort are our priority to our trained staff. We treat a wide variety of diseases with various types of infusion medications. Treatment for IVIg includes anyone suffering from:
- Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID)
- Lambert-Eaton Syndrome (Stiff-person syndrome)
- Kawasaki Syndrome & Dermatologic Conditions
- Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating
- Polyneuropathy (CIDP)
- Myasthenia Gravis