Intravenous (IV) refers to injecting drugs or fluid into a vein. Intravenous means “within the vein.” When something is injected intravenously, it immediately enters the bloodstream. An IV injection is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to get treatment into your body.

In comparison, if you were to swallow medication, it would have to be digested before it could take action in your body. If something is administered intravenously, the drug bypasses the digestion process and can start circulating in the bloodstream immediately.

What Is an IV Infusion?

An IV infusion, also known as IV therapy or an IV drip, delivers drugs or other fluids directly into the bloodstream. Unlike a direct injection or an IV push, this process involves slowly delivering the desired substance into the bloodstream. An IV infusion uses gravity or a pump to “drip” out the medication intravenously.

For an intravenous infusion, a small tube called a catheter is usually inserted into a vein, either in the arm or hand. Then, a medication bag is hung on a pole with a hook at a height higher than the injection site. A long, thin tube transports the medication to the vein in a slow and controlled manner.