Our IVIG patient information article is designed for you and others who may be in your circle of care. Questions about your IVIG treatment plan should be addressed by your doctor. The IVIG patient information provided on our Website, including text, images, audio, video, or other formats are for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
What is IVIG?
IVIG stands for Intravenous immune globulin (“IVIG”). It’s a product made up of antibodies that can be given through a vein. It is prepared from the blood donated by thousands of people, to make a super-concentrated collection of antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that your body makes to help you fight infections.
Over the course of your life, your body makes thousands of different antibodies. Each antibody made by your body is slightly different because it fits like a lock and key to every foreign substance (such as a virus) that gets into your body. This is why you need a new flu shot every year; each year the flu virus is slightly different, and different antibodies (which the vaccine causes your body to produce) are required to protect you.
Why Do I Need IVIG?
IVIG is used primarily in two situations, Primary Immunodeficiency or autoimmune or immune-mediated syndromes. Be sure to ask your doctor if you have specific questions about your treatment plan.
Primary Immunodeficiency occurs when your body does not make enough antibodies. The IVIG simply provides extra antibodies that your body cannot make on its own. The antibodies usually last for several weeks and help your body fight off a large variety of infections.
A second reason you might need IVIG is if your immune system has started attacking your body’s normal cells. These are conditions known as autoimmune or immune-mediated diseases. Some common autoimmune or immune-mediated diseases include multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, polymyositis, dermatomyositis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
How is IVIG Given?
IVIG is given into a vein (“intravenously”) in a physician monitored infusion suite. The specific dose ordered by your physician, as well as your tolerance to the medication, will determine your length of stay at the infusion center. Infusion rates are unique to each individual.
The amount of IVIG you need for each dose depends on your weight as well as the reason you are getting the IVIG (your diagnosis). The length of time it takes for an IVIG infusion will vary for each person. On average, it is between 4 to 6 hours. Larger doses are often divided over multiple days for patient tolerability.
Why Do I Have to Have Regular Infusions?
IVIG increases the antibody level within your body. Antibodies, whether those produced naturally by your body or those administered through IV, are eventually metabolized and eliminated by your body within 3-4 weeks. Regular infusions are necessary to maintain immune globulin levels within the desired range.
When Will I Notice the Benefits of IVIG?
Your response will vary depending on your diagnosis (Primary Immunodeficiency or autoimmune or immune-mediated syndromes). Every patient is individual, and your response will be just as individualized. It is important to give the IVIG enough time for your nurses and your physician to evaluate your response
If you are experiencing a Primary Immunodeficiency, your response should be fewer infections, particularly bacterial-type infections. If you continue to get infections while on IVIG you should notify your physician immediately. Your dose may need to be adjusted.
If you are experiencing an autoimmune or immune-mediated disease process, your response is usually determined by the severity of the symptoms you are experiencing, such as pain, mobility, and fatigue. Generally, it will take 3-6 months to fully realize the benefits, but some patients may feel better in a shorter period. Sometimes the benefit that you experience is stability. In other words, your no symptoms don’t get worse.
IVIG Side Effects
IVIG is one of the safest biological products available, and many people do not experience side effects. Some patients may experience mild side effects such as chills, fever, flu-like muscle/joint pain, fatigue, headache, and nausea.
The good news is that almost all side effects can be safely controlled and often eliminated. These side effects are easily managed by doing the following:
- Hydrate: It’s critical to properly hydrate beginning 3-5 days before your infusion. Just like combatting the flu, you always want to get plenty of fluids to alleviate side effects. These fluids are increased either orally or in some cases, intravenously before or after your IVIG infusion.
- Rate of Infusion: Giving the infusion more slowly; each patient tolerates IVIG infusion rates differently, and your nurses will tailor your infusion to your needs and tolerability.
- Smaller Doses: Dividing a large dose into several smaller doses that are given over several days
- NSAIDS: Taking NSAIDS like Tylenol, Aleve or Motrin to prevent the fever and flu-like symptoms and taking antihistamines like Benadryl, Claritin or Zyrtec to prevent allergic reactions. Some patients may also take medications like Excedrin Migraine if they have a history of headaches.
What Happens If This Treatment Does Not Work for Me?
All forms of IVIG therapy are effective, but an individual may tolerate one better than another. Many forms of IVIG are available. Talk with your doctor and infusion nurse, and together you can try to find a product or different therapy that works best for you.
Will Insurance Cover My IVIG Infusions?
Most commercial insurance carriers require prior authorization for IVIG, and medical policies outlining how IVIG is approved. If your doctor partners with Corinthian Health Services, An RN Care Manager will contact you to review your benefits and discuss patient financial responsibility before your infusion. Your RN Care Manager can also recommend patient assistance programs that you may qualify for to help with the out-of-pocket expenses.
What’s Unique About Corinthian Health Services?
Corinthian Health Services requires ALL of our IVIG Infusion Nurses to be nationally board certified in Ig therapy. This distinction is unique among infusion providers and is known as the IgCN certification (Immune globulin Certified Nurse).
Your infusion will occur in a physician-supervised setting, within the physician’s office. This ensures the highest level of safety and care in the industry.
Our infusion centers are designed to be a place of relaxation as well as a center of clinical excellence! Corinthian believes that optimal health and the very best infusion experience is realized in a safe and spa-like setting. Corinthian provides healthy snacks and drinks to enjoy during your infusion.
Your infusion experience is also tailored to YOUR needs, whether you need to work on your computer or watch television or just take a nap. We discourage the use of cell phone conversations within the infusion center to provide privacy as well as respecting the relaxing atmosphere we strive to maintain. We do provide areas outside the infusion center where cell phone usage is allowed.
IVIG Patient Information
If your physician has partnered with Corinthian Health Services, your referral is sent to your local Corinthian Infusion Suite. Once the Care Manager has received your paperwork, they will contact you to let you know the approximate time to receive authorization from your insurance carrier (days to weeks depending on insurance provider).
When the Care Manager receives authorization for your IVIG therapy, they will contact you to provide IVIG patient information, discuss benefits, and financial responsibility. Next, you will receive a call from the Corinthian clinical team for scheduling and instruction on how to prepare for your IVIG infusion appointment.
If your physician has not partnered with Corinthian Health Services, your experience will be different. Speak to your physician about your desire to use our services, and he or she may be able to direct you to a local Corinthian Infusion Suite.