IVIG (Gamma Globulin) Therapy

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Gamma globulin (GAM a  GLOB u len) is the part of blood that contains antibodies or immunoglobulins. These are proteins in the body that help fight infections. IVIG stands for Intravenous Immunoglobulin. It may be given to people who cannot make enough antibodies on their own to help fight infections. Other reasons it may be used include autoimmune conditions, bone marrow transplants or Kawasaki Disease.

IVIG Therapy Picture 1IVIG is made from immunoglobulins (antibodies) from the plasma of many healthy blood donors. This plasma and blood are screened and carefully tested to make sure there is no disease that may be passed on to others. The immune globulin is then purified and treated to remove most other proteins and to kill viruses and other germs that may be in the blood.

How IVIG is Given

IVIG is given into a vein intravenously (IV) (Picture 1). The rate of the IV infusion is increased gradually over 1 to 2 hours. A typical infusion may take 2 to 4 hours.

  • Blood tests may be done to check how well the treatment is going.   
  • The IVIG may need to be repeated one time or every few weeks. It may take many weeks to see the effect of IVIG.
  • Your child’s doctor may suggest a special form of gamma globulin that infuses slowly under the skin sub-Q in the belly or thighs. This sub-Q form is usually given through a pump every week.

Possible Side Effects

Many people will not have any side effects. During or after the infusion, some people may have:

  • Headache
  • Back discomfort
  • Dizzy or lightheaded feeling
  • Fever, chills
  • Hives or rash
  • Trouble breathing (rare) or allergic reaction
  • Tired feeling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Flushing
  • Muscle aches

The nurse will watch your child closely for these side effects.  Vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and temperature) will be checked every 15 to 30 minutes (Picture 2).

After the IVIG is Given

IVIG Therapy Picture 2Your child may have a headache, nausea, or vomiting up to 2 days after the IVIG. Your child’s doctor may recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ibuprofen (Motrin®), or diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) to help with these side effects. These medicines may also be given before the IVIG is given. It is important to stay well- hydrated following the IVIG infusion.

While vaccines are not contraindicated while on therapy with IVIG, your child’s body may not fully respond to the vaccine. Talk to their doctor about the best time to get vaccines.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your child’s doctor if:

  • Tylenol or Motrin does not relieve the headache or if your child develops neck stiffness with the headache.
  • Your child cannot drink fluids because they are vomiting.
  • Your child develops a severe reaction, like trouble breathing, chest tightness, wheezing, rash, or fevers.
  • Your child becomes lightheaded, dizzy, or passes out. If this happens, CALL 911.

IVIG (Gamma Globulin) Therapy (PDF)

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