By Ryan MacArthur |

Medical personnel often talk about IV therapy being “more effective” than oral medications. But what does this really mean for you as a patient?

IV Therapy vs Oral Medications

IV stands for “intravenous,” which means that the medication enters your body through one of your veins directly into your bloodstream. With IV administration, healthcare providers insert a thin plastic tube called a catheter into your vein. Your doctor or nurse is then able to give you as many doses of medication as needed without having to prick you with a needle every single time.

Oral medications, on the other hand, are taken by mouth. The drugs then dissolve in your stomach and are absorbed into your bloodstream via the digestive tract. Consequently, medications administered this way take longer to reach your bloodstream and to relieve your symptoms. IV administration is undeniably the fastest route because the drugs are injected directly and do not have to wait to be absorbed.

Risks & Advantages

However, both IV and oral therapies carry their own set of advantages and risks. Oral medications may be a patient and healthcare provider’s first choice based on a number of factors, including convenience.

Oral medications can be easier for patients to take and for their caregivers to manage. But one drawback is that oral medication absorbing is also dependent on patient diet and other medications. Other illnesses or complications, including chronic conditions and/or depressed immune systems, can also interfere with how quickly and effectively oral medications are absorbed.

There are certain instances when medications must be administered by IV when patients need to receive the necessary drugs immediately including emergencies such as a heart attack, stroke, or poisoning. In these cases, oral delivery may not be fast enough or the patient may not be able to swallow.

IV therapy is the faster route to deliver medication, but it can have complications of its own that patients and caregivers should look out for – such as bruising, infection, phlebitis and infiltration.


IV therapy allows medical personnel to have more control over the dosage given to each patient, as some medications must be given slowly over a longer period of time. Certain drugs can only be delivered by IV therapy since the acid and enzymes in your stomach and liver would break them down until they were no longer effective.

While your medical team will determine if receiving medication orally or through an IV is the best option for you, remember that you are your own best advocate. Speak up and ask questions about anything you may not understand.

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Image Source – Oral Vs. IV Therapy
Intravenous Medication Administration: What to Know –  


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