Iron Infusion

A treatment where iron is given through a vein and directly enters the bloodstream.


Our bodies need iron which is used to make haemoglobin; the part of our red blood cells that carries oxygen around our bodies. It is also important for muscle strength, energy and mental function. If your iron levels are low, this may cause you to feel tired and not able to perform normal daily activities. As the amount of iron in the body further declines, the haemoglobin drops below normal levels. This is called iron deficiency anaemia.


The most common way to treat iron deficiency is to take iron orally as a tablet or liquid. This is usually trialed as an initial measure and works well for most people. Some people may need iron to be given straight into the body through a vein. This is called an intravenous (IV) iron infusion. The iron is given through a needle and dripped or “infused” into the vein. Sometimes two iron infusions (administered at least one week apart) are required to fully replenish iron stores. The infusion is made up of iron, not blood.


  • The patient is unable to take iron tablets or liquid
  • The patient is not responding to, or absorbing iron tablets or liquids
  • Iron levels in the patient need to be replenished to normal levels quickly (e.g. before major surgery, late in pregnancy or to avoid blood transfusion)
  • If the patient has chronic kidney disease or chronic heart failure

Your doctor should explain why you require IV iron and discuss other options.


Generally, when side effects occur, they are mild and settle down on their own. The most common side effects are temporary and include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Temporary changes in taste (e.g. metallic)
  • Changes to blood pressure or pulse
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itchiness or rash
  • Burning and swelling at the injection site

Skin staining (brown discolouration) may occur due to leakage of iron into the tissue around the needle (drip) site. This is not common but the stain can be long lasting or permanent. Please inform the doctor or nurse straight away if you experience any discomfort, burning, redness or swelling at the needle (drip) site. Although very uncommon, some patients may have a severe allergic reaction. In rare cases, this can be life threatening.


Below contains useful information that answers some common questions about IV iron infusions. It does not contain all available information and does not negate the requirement to consult your doctor about your particular case.

Please tell your doctor if:

  • You are pregnant or trying to conceive
  • Have a history of asthma, eczema or other allergies
  • Have a had a reaction to any type of iron injection or infusion in the past
  • Have a history of high iron levels, haemachromatosis or liver problems
  • You are on any medications, including over-the-counter or herbal supplements
  • You may have breakfast and/or lunch as normal, there is no requirement for fasting prior to IV iron infusion
  • Drink two to three glasses of water
  • Take all regular medications
  • You can drive yourself to and from the infusion (unless you have an unexpected reaction) and resume all normal activities
  • If you experience any side effects, inform staff immediately
  • You will have your blood pressure taken and then the doctor/nurse will insert a small IV drip in your arm or hand through which the iron is administered
  • The IV iron is given as a slow infusion over 15 minutes. It is a black liquid and given in a bag of saline
  • You will be closely monitored and observed by medical staff during the infusion, and then further monitored for a 30-minute observation period once the IV iron infusion is complete

Sometimes side effects can occur one to two days later, including headache, mild fever, joint and muscle aches. They will mostly settle on their own or over the subsequent days following. They are more common with the “total dose” infusions of iron polymaltose. If they interfere with your day-to-day life or if you have any concerns, please contact Eastern Gastrointestinal Specialists.

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