What Is Specialty Infusion?

Category: Infusion Therapy

A nurse setting up specialty infusion for her patient as he sits in a chair.

When some think of an infusion, they likely think of someone being in the hospital with very poor health, hooked to an IV. While this is one way infusions are part of medical care, specialty infusions aren’t only for those who are very sick. Specialty infusions have come a long way to treat various conditions over the years. Keep reading to learn more about specialty infusions.

What is a specialty infusion?

According to the Mayo Clinic, specialty infusions are when a doctor prescribes treatment with a medication that must be administered intravenously (via an IV).

Where can you get a specialty infusion?

According to the Mayo Clinic, specialty infusions are performed either at a skilled nursing facility or at your home (in some cases). If you have a chronic medical condition that requires more frequent infusions to maintain, sometimes the infusion will be given to you by a well-trained infusion nurse who comes to your home. This is usually only the case once a drug has been established to be well tolerated by the patient. 

Is specialty infusion safe?

In the majority of cases, specialty infusions are quite safe. This is especially true when a doctor prescribes infusions with detailed knowledge of your medical history. According to a 2022 article published by the AARP, medical professionals advise against medically unnecessary IV drips for those with heart or kidney issues, as the extra salt and fluids that may be introduced into the body can be hard for these organs to tolerate.

However, if your doctor is recommending an infusion, the benefits are likely worth the risk of side effects or possible allergic reactions. Just be sure to give your doctor a full medical and medication history so they can adjust the infusion based on your individual needs. Side effects tend to be from the medication(s) themselves rather than the infusion process. This tends to be why your first dose of a new medication will likely be administered in a skilled nursing facility so you can be monitored for safety concerns in a medical environment. 

Are there side effects with an IV?

Every specialized infusion may or may not have side effects. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the possible side effects of receiving an IV can include:

Vein collapse: When a vein collapses when the needle enters the vein, making the vein unable to be used for that infusion cycle

An overload of fluid: When fluids are introduced too rapidly, resulting in headaches, high blood pressure, and breathing issues. Generally, this resolves once fluids even out. Be sure to tell your specialty nurse if you begin to experience a headache or trouble breathing, just to be safe.

Hematomas: When puncturing the skin causes blood to leak into the nearby tissue from the blood vessels. Essentially this will look like a bruise that resolves itself within a few weeks.

Phlebitis: This occurs when the vein becomes swollen in reaction to the IV. This is unfortunate but very common and is easily treated by removing the IV and applying a warm compress.

Infiltration: This happens when the catheter is misplaced or pops out of the vein causing the fluid to enter the blood vessels instead of the bloodstream. This can cause stinging and bruising, but it’s easily fixed.

Infection: There is always a small risk of infection when breaking the skin. However, the risk is minimal when the area is properly cleaned. If infection occurs, it’s usually treatable with antibiotics.

Air embolism: This occurs when excessive air gets in through the IV. This is a rare but severe complication.

What kind of conditions can be treated with specialty infusions? 

According to the National Infusion Center Association (NICA), the following are examples of ailments that specialty infusions can treat:

  • Migraines
  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and many more
  • Cancer
  • Pain from cancer
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Hemophilia
  • Antibiotics when oral antibiotics fail

Note: This is a basic and relatively short list. Specialty infusions can treat many other conditions.

Who is specialty infusion for?

A closeup of an IV drip for specialty infusions.

Infusion care can benefit anyone with nutritional deficiencies, serious medical conditions, chronic conditions, cancer, etc. According to the Mayo Clinic, specialty infusions can potentially decrease the time spent in hospitals and clinics.

While getting IV therapy sounds scary, specialty infusions offer many patients an alternative to oral medications. In many cases, specialty infusions have been shown to be more effective at treating some conditions (especially with certain autoimmune diseases). Specialty infusions also offer patients a more convenient route for better treatments for their condition(s).

If you’re looking for a skilled nursing facility that includes specialty infusion care,  inquire about a facility at the Haven Health Group. 


Crouch, M. (2022). The Truth Behind Trendy IV Vitamin Therapy.
Homecare Highlight: Nurses Provide Specialty Infusions in Patient Homes. (2020).
IV Fluids. (2021).
Specialties, Services & Treatments. (n.d.).