Iron Infusion Procedure and Benefits

Gina Arena
Medically reviewed by Gina Arena, Research Fellow Written by Leon Mao, Medical Writer on February 21, 2023
Iron infusion is an intravenous procedure that delivers a high dose of iron to the body and can effectively increase iron levels. In severe cases of anemia, it is often recommended as a treatment option.


Doctors often prescribe iron infusion to treat iron deficiency anemia [2], which is typically managed with dietary changes and iron supplements in pill form.

Who needs an iron infusion?

You may need an IV infusion if you:

  • Are unable to consume iron orally [3]
  • Have inadequate iron absorption through the gut
  • Experience insufficient iron absorption due to blood loss
  • Require an immediate increase in iron levels to avoid medical complications or a blood transfusion

How to prepare for an iron infusion

Your doctor will provide detailed instructions to prepare for your first iron infusion [4]. On the day of the infusion, here are some basic things you can do in preparation:

  • You do not need to fast for an iron infusion, so eating your breakfast and lunch is recommended as usual
  • Take your regular medications
  • Be prepared to have a small IV drip put in your arm or hand
  • Know how to call for assistance during your infusion in the event of an adverse reaction

If you feel worried about your iron infusion, consider asking your doctor about the procedure beforehand. They can suggest methods to help you feel more at ease and relaxed during the process.

Tips for comfort during the procedure

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
  • Have drinking water available
  • Listen to music
  • Watch a film or TV show on a tablet or smartphone
  • Read a book or magazine

What happens during an iron infusion

Typically, an iron infusion [5] occurs in a hospital or hemodialysis centre.

A doctor or nurse will insert a catheter or a small tube into a vein using a needle, usually in your arm or hand. After the catheter is inserted, the needle will be removed, leaving the catheter in your vein.

You might experience a minor pinch on your skin when the IV needle is inserted, and you may also feel some pressure at the insertion site during the procedure.

The catheter is linked to a long tube attached to an IV bag of iron, diluted with a saline solution. The solution is then delivered into your vein by a pump or gravity through the tube.

Before the procedure, your doctor will administer a test dose to ensure you do not have any adverse reactions to the iron. If any adverse reactions occur, the doctor will discontinue the procedure.

How long does an iron infusion take?

The iron infusion procedure may last for about 3 to 4 hours, during which you will need to remain seated. In certain situations, the infusion may take longer, based on how much iron your doctor thinks you need.

Side effects and potential complications

Most people can resume their normal activities immediately after the iron infusion. Some people even drive home or go to work if they feel up to it.

Some common side effects that may occur immediately after the procedure are typically mild and may include:

  • A feeling of warmth all over your body
  • A headache
  • A stuffy nose
  • A sore throat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Itchiness and rash
  • Increased or decreased blood pressure or heart rate
  • A burning sensation or swelling at the site of the injection

Major side effects

Serious side effects from iron infusions are rare but can include:

  • Iron toxicity
  • Anaphylactic shock
  • Severe hypotension
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness

To prevent complications, a test dose will usually be administered first. If you have a history of drug allergies, the test dose is particularly important as it enables your doctor to monitor you for any reactions.

Iron infusion vs. iron injection

An iron infusion delivers an iron dose through the vein with an IV drip, which can take up to several hours.

Whereas iron injection involves using a needle to administer iron into a muscle, usually the buttocks, to deliver the iron dose immediately.

Compared to iron injections, iron infusions are generally less painful.

Iron infusions during pregnancy

Doctors may prescribe iron infusions for pregnant women whose iron levels have dropped due to the increased need for iron during fetal development, which can lead to anemia.

Iron infusions are preferred over oral iron supplements because they reduce gastrointestinal side effects.

However, during pregnancy, iron infusions are typically only administered during the second or third trimester as the fetus develops, because it is currently unclear whether administering iron infusions during the first trimester is safe.

Iron infusion benefits

An iron infusion rapidly increases the body's iron levels, providing more immediate results than supplements or dietary changes. This can be particularly useful in cases of severe anemia [4].

Following an iron infusion, you may experience increased energy and improved breathing, typically occurring a few weeks after your last infusion. How long these benefits last for will depend on the underlying cause of your iron deficiency anemia and whether you are undergoing additional treatments to boost your iron levels.

For example, regular blood loss, such as through menstruation, can cause a persistent decrease in iron levels. In such cases, the benefits of an iron infusion can last from several months to a few years.

Frequently asked questions

How do you feel immediately after an iron infusion?

After the Iron Infusion treatment, you may experience a change in taste, abdominal cramping, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, or a burning or painful sensation.

How long do you feel unwell after an iron infusion?

If you experience delayed side effects after the iron infusion, such as headaches, joint pain, or itching, they may last up to two days. However, these side effects generally subside on their own over time. If you're worried about these side effects, reach out to your doctor or the infusion centre for guidance.

Should you rest after an iron infusion?

Following the infusion, there is no need to rest, and you can resume your normal activities immediately. Many people can drive themselves home. If you feel well enough, you can even return to work.

Medical fact-checkers
Medical reviewers
Last medically reviewed on February 21, 2023
Zable has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
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This content is general in nature and is for informational purposes only - it does not constitute medical advice. Content on Zable is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Read more from our Content Disclaimer

Leon Mao
Written by Leon Mao
Medical Writer, University of Melbourne
Published on February 21, 2023
Gina Arena
Medically reviewed by Gina Arena
Research Fellow, University of Western Australia
Reviewed on February 21, 2023
Article last updated on May 23, 2023
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