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What is Infusion Therapy?

There are times when it can become too difficult to take medications orally. There are also some medications that cannot be given orally because your stomach acids may destroy them, and they will no longer be effective to treat your disease.

These are just a few of the reasons to learn about Infusion Therapy.

In this segment, Terri Saari, RN, Registered Nurse in the Outpatient Infusion Department at Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital, discusses infusion therapy and the important questions you should ask your provider if they recommend infusion therapy.
What is Infusion Therapy?
Featured Speaker:
Terri Saari, RN, Outpatient Infusion Department
Terri Saari is a Registered Nurse in the Outpatient Infusion Department at Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital.

Melanie Cole (Host): Sometimes when people become very ill with a complex disease, they can’t eat, let alone take medications orally. Today’s topic is infusion therapy, and my guest is Terri Saari. She’s a registered nurse in the outpatient infusion department at Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital. Welcome to the show, Terri. What is infusion therapy?

Terri Saari, RN (Guest): Infusion therapy involves administering a variety of medications through either peripheral IV or Mediports, and it can be for a wide range of diseases or chronic illnesses.

Melanie: So what diseases are typically treated with infusion therapy, and people also think of chemotherapy as infusion, but that’s not all it is, right?

Terri: Correct. We do do chemotherapy, but a portion of my patients are the patients that we are treating chronic illnesses for. Some of the disease processes may be rheumatoid arthritis, MS. I get a lot of blood transfusions in here or blood products. We also do a lot of anemia patients here. Hydration, anything that can be given in an outpatient setting we do do here.

Melanie: You mentioned hydration, and people don’t think of that as a disease or something, but that’s probably one of the more common uses for infusion therapy, and people might not even realize that.

Terri: That is correct. A lot of people also that have like chronic kidney diseases need hydration. We call it gentle hydration where we monitor their kidney function and give them just a little bit of watering, is a term we use just to get them so that they’re not dehydrated, feel a little better, a little perkier, get those kidneys moving.

Melanie: Well, on TV, you always see, you know, people say, oh, get the saline, and you know, so people think of it as something along those lines, but this is really something that’s planned, right? So, how long does it take for someone to come in for a session of infusion therapy?

Terri: Well, the process here is I get an order from the doctor. I verify it with our pharmacy, and then I will call the patient and schedule it and depending on the medication it can be anywhere from a 15-minute infusion to a four-hour infusion.

Melanie: So, what are the benefits of this treatment versus other techniques?

Terri: With this the patient does not have to be admitted to the hospital, that reduces hospital acquired infections. It also lowers costs. Instead of the patient paying for, oh, it could be a couple week stay at the hospital where they’re getting these therapies, they can come once a day, twice a day, maybe once a week and the cost is so much lower for that patient.

Melanie: So, Terri, you mentioned that some of these therapies and people have heard about chemotherapy and how long it takes and bring somebody with you, but what are some of the things that you can do to help patients feel comfortable during their treatments which could be quite long?

Terri: We ask them to either bring in a book. They can bring in movies. They can bring in their devices. We also have quilts that one of our local churches have made here for our patients so that they’re a little warmer, feel a little more cozy, and we also had a group that made quilts for our patients to take home and then bring back. So, they’re bringing a little piece of home back with them.

Melanie: Are they allowed to bring somebody with them?

Terri: They are. We do encourage it. It makes them more comfortable. It makes their visit seem a lot shorter, and it just keeps them occupied. Keeps their mind off of it while they’re here.

Melanie: So, tell us a little bit more. When somebody comes to you and the doctor has put in an order, and they’re nervous, and they’re not sure if it’s something what they can expect or if it’s going to hurt, tell them a little bit about what it’s like.

Terri: Well, generally, when I make the appointment, I explain to them if it’s going to be given IV or their port, I go through the whole process, that we’re going to start an IV or I’m going to access their port with a needle. I explain all of the adverse effects of the medication, what the medication’s for, how long it should take, and then, I just answer any of their questions. Make sure they have a really good educated—so that they can make informed decisions about what they want and what to expect.

Melanie: What about pain management? It’s such a big field these days. Is there a use for infusion therapy in pain management as well?

Terri: We do give medications for say like rheumatoid arthritis, and a lot of those medications that we give are geared towards controlling that patient’s pain, controlling their inflammation.

Melanie: So, Terri, does that help with reducing that risk of people misusing their medications?

Terri: It will. it can greatly reduce their chronic pain levels, and it can cut back on those narcotics, those pain pills they’re taking at home, and generally, we try to gauge how well and how long the duration of their infusion is lasting so that we can make a better plan to try to control that.

Melanie: Does somebody get to sort of graduate from infusion therapy and go to oral medications? I mean is it better that way and do they get to stop doing it and coming in for these therapies?

Terri: A lot of our antibiotics, they may be given for four weeks or six weeks. We have some people that come in twice a day for up to six weeks, and then they will graduate to oral antibiotics before they’re completely off of those antibiotics just to make sure that we have control over that infection.

Melanie: That’s good to know, and great information. Wrap it up for us, Terri, what you want people to know about infusion therapy for people that have really never heard of it, don’t know what it is, and don’t know what to expect.

Terri: Infusion therapy is administering medications for a variety of illnesses or disease processes, and it is done in our outpatient facility. It keeps you out of the hospital and in a safe environment where we can monitor you and make sure that you are not having any ill effects from that medication.

Melanie: Thank you so much for being with us today. This is Aspirus Health Talk. For more information, please visit That’s This is Melanie Cole; thanks so much for listening.