• Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG)

    What is intravenous immunoglobulin, also known as IVIG or intravenous gamma globulin?

    IVIG is a blood product often given to people who have an immune deficiency or an autoimmune illness, including immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). (A blood product is a substance made from human blood.) IVIG is used to replace the part of the blood that contains antibodies. Antibodies help fight infection.

    How is IVIG made?

    • IVIG comes from human plasma. Human plasma is the liquid part of the blood that does not contain red blood cells.
    • Special processes are used in manufacturing IVIG to make it safe. These processes inactivate viruses that may be found in human plasma.
    • There are several companies in the United States and around the world that produce IVIG. There are slight differences in the way each company makes its product, but all IVIG products work the same way.

    What are the benefits of IVIG?

    • When people receive IVIG for an immundeficiency, the body's ability to fight off infection improves.
    • When people receive IVIG for an autoimmune condition, it is thought to readjust parts of the immune system that "attack" the body. IVIG may help reduce symptoms of the illness.

    How is IVIG given?

    • IVIG may be given by injection (shot) into a muscle or directly into a vein. When it is given into a vein, it is called IVIG infusion.
    • IVIG may be given in the hospital during an outpatient visit or in the home by a home infusion company. The doctor will talk with you about what will work best for you or your child.
    • If you are a Dana-Farber/Boston Children's patient, treatment with IVIG takes place in the Center for Ambulatory Treatment and Clinical Research (CAT/CR) at Boston Children's Hospital.
    • Most IVIG infusions take 3-6 hours, and patients go home soon afterwards. During the infusion, the nursing staff will carefully observe you or your child.

    Can there be a reaction to IVIG?

    • Some patients have reactions to IVIG. Most reactions or problems occur during the infusion. Sometimes, patients may have a problem later on, within the first three days.
    • Signs or symptoms that may occur during the infusion and up to 3 days after include:
      • fever less than 101°F,
      • hives or rash,
      • mild headache,
      • nausea and/or vomiting,
      • muscle and joint pain, and
      • fatigue (more tired than usual).

    What are the risks of IVIG?

    • There is always a small risk that blood products may contain viruses that can cause infection.
    • In the past, a small number of people who received IVIG became ill with hepatitis. Today, products are now treated to prevent transmission of the virus that causes hepatitis and other viruses. There have been no documented cases of the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS (HIV) through IVIG.
    • There is a small chance that you or your child will have a severe allergic reaction to IVIG. If that happens the IVIG is stopped. Medications to treat allergic reactions are given immediately.

    Are there choices that work as well as IVIG?

    • Children with weakened immune systems may avoid some infections with antibiotics. Still, antibiotics are not effective against all types of infections.
    • Autoimmune conditions may be treated with prednisone (steroids) or other medications to suppress the immune system. These types of therapy, however, are more likely to lead to infections.

    Who should I call if I have questions?

    If you have questions or concerns, please call your child's primary care doctor.

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