Immunoglobulins are special proteins in the blood that fight infections. Some of our white blood cells make them. They are also known as antibodies. Antibodies are important for the immune system. In immunoglobulin therapy (IVIg), extra immunoglobulins from a donor are injected into your blood.
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It is used to treat disorders of the immune system, such as:
Autoimmune disease—the body begins to attack its own cellsImmunodeficiency—low-functioning immune systemInflammatory diseasesOther diseases that weaken the immune system
IVIg can also reduce inflammation in the body. Some conditions, including acute infections, may need IVIg to restore antibodies and boost the immune system.
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have IVIg, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
HeadacheInfectionFluid in the lungsDamage to the kidneysBlood clotsAllergic reaction to the IVIg
No special instructions are given prior to the procedure. Before the solution is given, it is closely screened for any viruses, diseases, or infections.
Concentrated immunoglobulin antibodies will be collected from a healthy individual. These antibodies are added to a sterile solution.
An IV needle will be inserted into a vein in your arm. The combined solution will be delivered from a hanging bag through the IV to your vein.
The procedure is not painful. There may be some minor discomfort as the IV is inserted into the skin.
The site where the IV was put in may become irritated. You should check with your doctor if this happens.
You may begin to see an improvement in your original symptoms as soon as 24-48 hours following the procedure. For some, it may be 3-4 weeks before an improvement is seen.
Immunoglobulin therapy is usually done in cycles. For an infection or other immune system deficiency, therapy is usually recommended every 3-4 weeks. If you have a neurological or autoimmune disease, therapy is given for 5 days a month for 3-6 months. Following the initial therapy, maintenance therapy is given every 3-4 weeks.
As with the introduction of any foreign substance or chemical to the body, the possibility of allergic reaction exists. If you experience any of the following symptoms of anaphylactic shock (severe allergic reaction), you should call the doctor right away:
Wheezing and/or difficulty breathingConfusionSlurred or abnormal speechRapid heartbeat or heart palpitations, weak or rapid pulseBlue tint to the skin, lips, or fingernailsLightheadedness or feeling faintHives, rash, or itching
diarrhea, or abdominal cramping
Cough or nasal congestionReddened skin
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
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Orange, JS, Hossny, EM, et al. Use of intravenous immunoglobulin in human disease: A review of evidence by members of the Primary Immunodeficiency Committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
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Accessed May 29, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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