Iron can be given in tablet form or by intravenous infusion.
The intravenous route requires a small cannula (plastic tube) to be inserted in a vein, usually in the hand or arm. A needle is used to insert the cannula which can cause a momentary sting but is usually painless.
The iron dose is calculated and diluted in saline (salt solution) and dripped through in approximately 20 minutes. You will be asked to remain in the waiting room for one hour after the infusion before going home.
Side effects are unusual but include flushing, headache and shortness of breath and temporary changes in the way you taste food and drinks.
Very rarely there can be leakage of the iron solution into the skin, causing a brown discolouration. If there is any pain or redness at the infusion site it is discontinued immediately.
Anaphylactic shock has occasionally been reported during intravenous iron infusion and so the infusion is commenced slowly as a ‘test dose’. There are staff and equipment on site to respond to emergencies.
Some individuals may prefer to use iron tablets. This will be discussed at the appointment, to ensure they are taken correctly to maximise the chance of successful correction of iron deficiency.