“Did you check the air bubble?” asked an injured Vikram (Shiney Ahuja) to his doctor on being injected a medicine intravenously in Sudhir Mishra's political drama, Hazaaron Khwahishen Aisi, hinting at the possibility of air embolism due to negligence.
“That's the commonest scare most patients have, and rightly so because minor negligence can cause air embolism and turn fatal. The other is thrombophlebitis. A pill is better than a prick, or what can be consumed orally shouldn't be given intravenously,” emphasises Dr Ishwar Gilada, sceptical of the new fad, IV Lounges, that has caught the fancy of urban India.
An IV drip is an intravenous method of infusing medicines — most commonly glucose and saline, chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics — directly into the bloodstream. It is prescribed when the medicine dosage is highly concentrated or when the patient can't consume the medicines orally.
Today, IV lounges and clinics across the metros are offering a mega boost of wellness by injecting a super shot of electrolytes, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins directly into the bloodstream, albeit intravenously. The menu is akin to a juice bar or a coffee outlet. You can select the packages or shots you want, get a cannula inserted, and intravenously get the desired medicines.
Dr Chetan Goyal, Consultant, critical care medicine, Paras JK Hospital, Udaipur, agrees that IV hydration therapy and IV vitamin therapy can help restore, replenish and detoxify the body quicker than by drinking water, eating healthy or taking oral medication. “While there's no doubt that an IV can speed up how quickly things enter the bloodstream, it is unlikely that boutique IV therapy companies can do what they claim,” he states.
Dr Lenny Da Costa of Rejuven8 Clinic, Mumbai, has been doing intravenous IV therapies since 2004, and treating chronic degenerative conditions, especially ageing conditions. “Being a qualified geriatric physician, it is imperative for me to help my patients in the best way possible with their ageing issues. So, there was no better way to get the nutrients in the right doses than giving them IVs wherever possible to get the effect we needed. IV therapies work for my geriatric patients with chronic degenerative conditions from brain fog to dementia, from postural hypotension to heart failure, and many other conditions,” claims Dr Da Costa, who was among the first few to start doing this but purely for treatment purposes, adding that the trend to use it for wellness has became popular in the last five years.
Dr Deepak Chaturvedi of AMAAYA Clinic in Mumbai explains how the Myers' Cocktail, an IV infusion of vitamins and nutrients, was designed to reduce medical symptoms and a better well-being. According to him, IV infusion of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like glutathione, works for patients with chronic alcoholism, pancreatitis, liver disorders, chronic fatigue, etc.
However, Dr Rashmi Shetty, dermatologist and founder and creator of Sol Skin Corp, calls IV infusion therapy a fad and rues the lack of ample medical research or documentation on this subject. “Infusion of vitamins has been done earlier when there is a severe deficiency of vitamins or when a person isn't well, and the body needs much more to heal and recuperate. But now, it has become a fad, one solution for all problems: late-night, hangover, or exhaustion,” Dr Shetty informs.
Dr Gilada agrees and calls it a bad and unhealthy medical practice that doesn't bode well for healthcare, all the so in the absence of any government regulation. “Administering IV becomes necessary in gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, or when a person is vomiting and in burn cases. To avoid dehydration, we first start with an IV stabiliser and give an antihistamine or anti-emetic to stabilise the patient. In some instances, antibiotics need to be given, and certain antibiotics are available only intravenous, but the healthcare practitioner should avoid indiscriminate use," says Dr Gilada.
These therapies work to correct the underlying biochemistry that may be affected by environmental oxidative stress. “It is not a chemical, it is more nutritional, so side effects are minimal and hence no immediate dramatic results. But it is very effective for those seeking wellness, especially when it comes to fatigue,” says Dr Da Costa.
Dr Goyal warns of overdose because it can have side effects. “Some of the common side effects of vitamin IV therapy are rashes, infection at the injection site, vein inflammation and bruising, air embolism, and blood clots. Various side effects from the prescribed vitamins can also happen. It is crucial to inform the doctor about any medications or supplements,” Dr Goyal explains. He warns that Vitamin IV infusion should be used cautiously for those with kidney disease or heart conditions as the organs may not be able to process high concentrations of vitamins at one time. “It can also interfere with electrolyte balance. For example, too much potassium can cause a heart attack,” he says.
Dr Shetty states that it is essential to consider the parameters of administering it. “It has to be done with an expert for a particular reason. And sometimes a lot of vitamins, when you give them in an IV, is just not absorbed because anything excess body flushes it out. So it may actually be useless," Dr Shetty adds.