Kids Health Info

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) infusion

  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (commonly referred to as IVIg) is used to treat many immune deficiency disorders and inflammatory conditions. 

    An IVIg infusion is a common and safe procedure. The IVIg your child will receive is supplied by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. IVIg is prepared from blood donated by thousands of healthy people to make a concentrated collection of antibodies (immunoglobulins). All IVIg products are tested and screened to protect patients from diseases. They also undergo at least two processes that destroy viruses. The risk of infection is very low.

    The IVIg is slowly administered directly into your child’s vein through a drip (intravenous or IV therapy). 

    Why does my child need IVIg?

    There are two main reasons children are prescribed IVIg treatment:

    • Immune replacement therapy: IVIg given to babies or children who do not make enough of their own antibodies to fight infections. These infections may be present from birth or develop as a result of other diseases or treatments, e.g. chemotherapy. IVIg may help reduce the chance of developing an infection and will likely need to be given repeatedly
    • Immunomodulation therapy: Prescribed when the immune system attacks the body's normal cells. IVIg may help to regulate the immune system to improve symptoms.

    If your child needs IVIg, your doctor will discuss with you: 

    • why they think your child needs an IVIg infusion
    • the likely benefits
    • any risks
    • if there are any alternatives. 

    Giving consent

    You will be asked to sign a consent form to allow your child to have an IVIg infusion. You can ask questions and discuss any concerns you may have with the doctor before you agree to your child being given IVIg. 

    You will also be asked for your consent (oral or written) to the collection, retention and use of your child's personal information and clinical data. The clinical staff at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service who authorise IVIg require this information to ensure:

    • the correct type of IVIg product is authorised for the correct medical condition
    • the correct dose is given to your child 
    • that the IVIg is shipped to the correct hospital. 

    What to expect with an IVIg infusion

    Unless your child already has one, an IV will be inserted into a vein, which may cause some brief pain and discomfort. If your child is distressed or uncomfortable, you can try distracting them using some of the techniques in our fact sheet Reducing your child's discomfort during procedures.

    Before the IVIg infusion begins, two nurses will check that the details on your child's wristband (full name and date of birth) exactly match those on each IVIg bottle. You may be asked to participate in this check. This will happen each time, even if your child needs many IVIg infusions. 

    The IVIg infusion will take a number of hours to administer. A pump will be used to ensure it is delivered over the correct time frame. 

    Most children feel comfortable and no different to usual during their IVIg infusion; however, they may become bored or restless. If your child is going into hospital to have an infusion as a day procedure, it is a good idea to bring in a smartphone, tablet, MP3 player or books to keep your child occupied.

    What are the risks?

    There are a number of possible side effects associated with IVIg infusions, especially if the child does not receive IVIg regularly or requires larger doses. These side effects are usually minor and not dangerous. They may include tiredness, mild headache, nausea, stomach and back pain. Let nursing staff know if your child starts to feel unwell in any way or if you are concerned.

    Very rarely, more serious side effects can occur, such as:

    • shortness of breath or wheezing
    • tongue/throat swelling
    • chest tightness
    • skin rash
    • dizziness
    • low blood pressure
    • visual disturbance
    • very severe headache
    • blood clots.

    Your child will be carefully monitored during their infusion. Nurses will frequently check their temperature, heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure.

    Let nursing staff know if your child starts to feel unwell in any way or you are concerned during the IVIg infusion.

    Sometimes, these side effects can occur 24 hours after the infusion has been completed. Any of the side effects listed above – or any other symptoms – should be reported to a doctor or nurse immediately.

    Key points to remember

    • Your doctor will speak with you about why your child needs an IVIg infusion and ask for your consent before the procedure. 
    • IVIg is carefully tested so that the risk of getting an infection or virus is very small.
    • Nursing staff will monitor your child carefully during the IVIg infusion.
    • Most children feel comfortable and no different at all during the infusion.
    • Some children experience mild side effects, and very rarely more serious side effects occur. Let nursing staff know if your child starts to feel unwell during the infusion.

    For more information

    Common questions our doctors are asked

    What are the alternatives to having an IVIg infusion?

    Your child's doctor will explain if there are any alternatives to IVIg infusion that may be suitable for your child. These alternatives will depend on your child's condition and the severity of symptoms.

    Will the IVIg infusion hurt? 

    Inserting an IV involves a needle and is associated with a brief period of pain and discomfort. Once the transfusion is underway, your child will not feel anything happening, and they should feel no different to normal. 


    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Laboratory Services. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed August 2018.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.

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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.