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My Iron Infusions - Switching from Dextran to Venofer

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photo of "Hospital Hand" by Kim McLeod used with permission.

photo of "Hospital Hand" by Kim McLeod used with permission.

My Infusions

Hi. I'm Kay. For the last ten years or so, I've been struggling with iron deficiency anemia.

When I say iron deficiency anemia, I mean that I just have no iron in my body and diets and supplements do not seem to help much. I've been undergoing infusions for more than awhile now and would like to share a bit of my own experiences in hopes that it helps somebody else with their own infusions. During my second round of infusions, I had a bad reaction to the Dextran, For the next set of infusions, my hematologist swithced me to Venofer. While I've written about my Dextran reactions, this page details my experience, so far, with the Venofer.

What is an Iron Infusion?

I know that not everybody who reads this page will be familiar with iron infusions so let me *introduce* you to the infusion process.

Once it has been determined that you are anemic, doctors may prescribe iron pills and recommend changing your eating habits. If these things don't work or cause side effects and your iron levels are dangerously low, they may then order a series of infusions.

An infusion is iron in liquid form and it is given through an IV. Each infusion may take one to three (or so) hours depending upon the type of iron and dosage. This is given in a doctor's office or hospital setting and you are monitored during the procedure.

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Which Brings Us to My Venofer Infusions:

After my severe reaction to Dextran, my doctor decided to wait until it was absolutely necessary to have another infusion. Four months later, it was necessary. I had only had one infusion during that round before I had the side effects so my ferritin never got really high. I knew it was about time. Again, I was just tired all the time.

Near the end of November, we discovered that, again, my ferritin levels were below five. I was a mite nervous about scheduling another infusion but they told me they'd switch to Venofer which is better tolerated and has far fewer side effects.

So, I suppose, like me, you are wondering, if it has fewer side effects, WHY DIDN'T THEY START WITH THAT ONE? Well, I asked that question. I was told that Venofer is more expensive and insurance companies prefer to start with the cheaper Dextran.

I was told that rather than two infusions with Dextran, I would now have five infusions (one each week) and they would be shorter in duration.

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My First Venofer Infusion

I was scheduled for my first Venofer infusion toward the end of November. I had been given Benadryl prior to my other infusions so I was prepared. I had my pillow and was even looking forward to a little nap. The nurse brought over my Venofer bag and I didn't see the Benadryl. I was a bit concerned because I really did not want to have another bad reaction. She assured me that she has never seen a bad reaction to Venofer and it really is better tolerated than Dextran. I'm skeptical but made sure I was sitting close to the nurse's station. Once the bag was hooked up, it took about an hour and fifteen minutes to finish. The only side effect I had at that time was a bit of itchiness around the IV site. I didn't even have the usual stomach pains that I had with the Dextran. I wasn't groggy a bit because I hadn't had Benadryl. I spent the time conversing with another gal who had had the Benedryl. She was slurring her words and really tired but we had a good conversation about our upcoming Christmas plans.

I drove myself home and for the next hour or so just felt like cleaning, so I did. Several hours later, though, I became really, really, really tired. Far more than I usually am with my anemia and I started getting the flu-like achiness. By that evening, my fever was about 100 and, after taking some Motrin, I was in bed for the night by about 7pm. For the next two days, I would feel fine and then I'd start getting a slight fever with achiness. During those times, I'd nap and wake up feeling better again. All in all, this was much easier than with the other infusions I had had.

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My Second Infusion

We had to reschedule my appointment so I ended up having my second infusion two weeks after the first. This time, I left the pillow at home and brought my laptop. Again, the only side effect that I recall having is itchiness around the IV site. Maybe it isn't the iron and just the IV? Who knows. Anyhow, the time went quickly. I was in and out within an hour and a half.

I was prepared that evening to feel fluish but never happened. I was tired. Yes, I was really tired later that afternoon but that was the only side effect. This one was by far the easier infusion I had had. Maybe my body is adjusting?

Hope

Hope

My Third Infusion

I arrived for my third infusion and, for the first time, felt no nervousness at all! The nurse hooked up my IV and I spent the next hour or so sending emails and playing Settlers of Catan on my computer. I spoke with a couple chemo patients and, again, we talked about Christmas. There was a gal next to me with an iron IV but she slept the entire time. It was clear she had the Dextran. I arrived well after her bag was started and left before it finished. She slept the entire time I was there. Again, I had a little itchiness around the IV site. About 15 minutes before the bag finished, I did start to get a headache but it wasn't too bad.

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This time, when I arrived home, I had to take some Motrin for the headache and just slept for about an hour. I was really exhausted again and didn't do much all day other than take occasional naps. My headache was gone after the first nap. I was pretty tired the next day but had no other side effects. I noticed that the day after that, I had a bit more energy than usual. I think the treatments are beginning to work.

My Fourth Infusion

Had my fourth infusion yesterday. I had absolutely no side effects during the infusion at all. I'd have to say, this was the easiest infusion yet. A little tired from it and had a nice nap once I got home. The only side effect I had was when my husband dropped something that made a loud noise, my heart started racing. It took a moment before it normalized. Didn't like that but will mention it to my doctor at the next appointment.

My Fifth Infusion

By the fourth week, I started to feel much better. I had energy. My last infusion went smoothly and my ferritin made it up to the 80 range which was not as good as the Dextran (over 200 with that first round) but considering I had no ferritin just weeks prior, both the doctor and I were quite happy with that level.

Dextran vs. Venofer

my own experiences

Without a doubt, I have had far fewer side effects with the Venofer.

Some of my own side effects with Dextran that happened each time:

- exhaustion

- stomach pains

- itchiness in my arm and on my head and neck during the IV

and side effects that happened but not during every infusion:

- weight gain in the week that would follow the IV

- flu-like symptoms

- fever

- headaches (severe)

- vomiting

My side effects with Venofer that I've had each time:

- some itchiness at the site of the IV

- exhaustion (but much shorter duration than with the Dextran/Benadryl combination)

and side effects that happened but not each time:

- flu-like symptoms

- fever

- headaches (but easily taken care of with Motrin)

Some Helpful Sites

More Information

on Dextran vs. Venofer

If you would like to compare Dextran vs. Venofer, I invite you to check out this site: