Most people get enough iron through eating a healthy, balanced diet. However, sometimes people require extra iron and this can be given as a tablet, or in some cases an injection.
Supplementing iron in this way increases the amount of iron stored in your body and can be used to help to treat or prevent iron deficiency (low blood levels of iron).
When are iron injections given?
Low iron levels are usually treated with iron, taken by mouth as tablets or liquid (called oral iron supplements). But, in some cases, if oral iron supplements are not suitable, then iron injections are given. You may need an iron injection if you:
- are unable to take iron tablets or liquid
- are unable to absorb iron through your gut
- have lost a lot of blood for example, due to surgery
- need a rapid increase in iron to avoid complications after a blood transfusion or before or after major surgery
- have ongoing (chronic) kidney disease.
Which iron injections are available in New Zealand?
There are a few types of iron injection available in New Zealand such as iron polymaltose (ferrum H®), iron sucrose (Venofer®), iron dextran (INFeD Iron Dextran®) and ferric carboxymaltose (Ferinject®).
How are iron injections given?
Iron injections are usually given as a slow drip into your vein (called intravenous infusion). A needle is placed into the vein, in the back of your hand or arm, so the iron infusion can go directly into your blood stream. It will take at least 15 minutes for the infusion to go through.
Some iron injections can be given into a muscle (called intramuscular injections), but these are not used often because they are painful and can stain the skin.
Tip: Do not take iron tablets for a week after an iron infusion because the iron in them will not be absorbed by your body.
The dose needed will be different for each person. Your doctor will calculate how much iron is needed to return your levels to normal. The iron will take a few weeks to have its full effect.
You can be given an iron infusion at your GP surgery, clinic or hospital. On the day of the infusion, eat your meals as usual and take your regular medicines.
Precautions — before having iron infusion
- Are you pregnant or breast-feeding?
- Do you have problems with your liver or kidneys?
If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor before you start an iron injection. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.
Possible side effects
Like all medicines, iron infusions can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.
|Side effects||What should I do?|
The following links provide further information on iron supplements. Be aware that websites from other countries may contain information that differs from New Zealand recommendations.
Intravenous (IV) iron infusion Auckland DHB, New Zealand
- Intravenous iron Safe Rx, New Zealand, 2014
- Anaemia on full blood count: investigating beyond the pale BPAC 2013
- Parenteral iron New Zealand Formulary, 2017