Being iron deficient can really slow you down.
Constantly feeling tired and flat, breathlessness, and poor concentration are common symptoms.
Your body doesn’t produce iron, yet it is essential to make haemoglobin, a protein in your red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
ON THIS PAGE
- What’s an iron infusion?
- Who might benefit from an iron infusion in Melbourne?
- Who’s unlikely to benefit?
- Are iron infusions safe during pregnancy?
- How we conduct iron infusions at the clinic
- Are there any side effects?
- How much does an iron infusion cost?
- About Dr Michael Macpherson
Iron also helps your muscles work to their best ability.
Though hugely under-diagnosed in Australia, it’s thought a third of menstruating women* have iron deficiency.
What’s more, doctors estimate that 12% of pregnant women and 15% of non-pregnant women of reproductive age in Australia have the more severe condition, iron deficiency anaemia (IDA).
The above figures more than triple for First Nations people. The rate of iron deficiency and IDA for non-indigenous men* is around 5%.
It’s important to note that not everyone who’s iron deficient has anaemia – more on iron deficiency and IDA below.
In the following, I answer a bunch of questions about iron infusions local patients have asked.
What’s an Iron Infusion?
An iron infusion is a simple and safe procedure we use to intravenously inject a prescribed and calculated dose of iron into your body via your bloodstream.
Your GP may suggest an in-clinic iron infusion as a treatment option when alternative methods of boosting iron levels haven’t worked or if your condition and circumstances indicate that urgently increasing your iron levels may be appropriate.
* I recognise and appreciate not all patients identify with binary genders. For ease of understanding, I’ve used a cis-gendered heterosexual context to discuss this complex area of medicine.
Who Might Benefit from an Iron Infusion?
Most patients for whom I prescribe iron infusions are people diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) or those at risk of developing IDA who haven’t had much success with oral iron supplements.
Oral iron can irritate your gut, separate from its ongoing use, but there are many other reasons why iron tablets don’t work well for some people.
With more than one factor often at play, these reasons include:
- Some regularly consumed foods, compounds, or other medications can hinder the body’s ability to absorb orally ingested iron (e.g. caffeine, fibre, calcium, and antibiotics commonly used to treat skin conditions, such as doxycycline).
- Vitamin C deficiency (vitamin C helps with iron absorption).
- Inflammation that’s present elsewhere in the body.
- Gut disorders, such as coeliac disease.
- Blood loss elsewhere in the body, including ulcers, parasites, or bowel lesions.
- Bone marrow disease.
Here’s a great infographic on how to best meet your recommended daily dietary iron needs.
We easily diagnose iron deficiency and IDA through blood tests undertaken at your local blood collector.
Doctors may infrequently suggest an iron infusion for the following reasons:
- Renal (kidney) impairment.
- Inflammatory bowel disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease.
- Heart failure.
- When you need to rapidly boost your body’s iron stores, such as in preparation for major surgery where blood loss is expected, and you want to limit the need for a blood transfusion.
Who’s Unlikely to Benefit?
It’s not uncommon for patients to request an iron infusion because they’re always tired or exhausted.
Most of the time, we find reasons other than low iron levels or IDA causing fatigue. A simple blood test can eliminate iron deficiency as a culprit while allowing us to look for other causes.
If you’re not iron deficient, having extra iron won’t make you feel more energetic.
Are Iron Infusions Safe During Pregnancy?
Though iron infusions are generally considered safe in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, we don’t offer mums-to-be infusions at the clinic.
We like to err on the side of caution.
How We Do In-Clinic Iron Infusions: Safe, Effective & Stress-Free
With outstanding service central to patient care, we’ll ensure you have all the information you need before your iron infusion.
We use the highly reputable Ferinject® (ferric carboxymaltose) intravenous iron replacement treatment. It’s safe and effective.
You can rest easy knowing we’ll use an intravenous cannula (aka catheter) to administer your iron infusion.
This method minimises the risks of extravasation, where some liquid leaks under the skin near the injection site, resulting in an unsightly stain (tattooing).
Steps to Getting an Iron Infusion
At your first appointment, we’ll discuss your symptoms together, and I’ll answer your questions about boosting iron levels.
I’ll then order blood tests to determine your iron deficiency level and risk of developing IDA.
These blood tests are very accurate, and help guide the best treatment, whether starting on iron tablets and looking at your diet or getting you in for an iron infusion.
If an infusion is deemed the best course of treatment, we’ll send you a prescription to fill at your local pharmacy.
You’ll need to bring the Ferinject to your second appointment, which will involve the following:
- Discussing any concerns with me about the iron infusion.
- Overseen by myself in our dedicated treatment room, our practice nurse will then insert a tiny needle into a vein in your arm or hand, attach the cannula, and make sure you’re comfortable. Some people request music and dimmed lights to calm their nerves.
- Our nurse will slowly release the iron infusion into your bloodstream via the cannula, taking around 20 minutes.
- Following the procedure, we’ll ask you to relax in our waiting room for 30 minutes to monitor you for any allergic reactions, though these are incredibly rare.
You’re then free to go about your day. 😀
Some patients might need two doses of Ferinject a week apart.
You should start feeling the benefits of the iron infusion within two to four weeks. You’ll have a follow-up blood test six weeks after the infusion to see if it’s worked.
Most people feel the benefits of their iron infusion for months, even years, afterwards.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Though adverse reactions following an iron infusion are unusual, the most commonly reported side effects include:
- Mild nausea
- Mild fevers and chills
- Feeling flushed
- Mild pain at the injection site
These are rare and mainly occur in the first 24-48 hours of your treatment. You can usually treat mild side effects with rest and over-the-counter pain relief.
Please let us know if any of these reactions persist for more than a couple of days.
How Much Does an Iron Infusion Cost?
For Medicare card holders, the out-of-pocket cost for your first appointment will be $74 ($91 weekdays after 5.30 pm and all day Saturday).
Your second appointment, at which you’ll receive the iron infusion, is $300 out-of-pocket.
The Ferinject® prescription is approximately $40 from your local pharmacy.
Iron infusions have worked wonders for many people suffering from IDA and iron deficiency and are safe, effective, and accessible.
Please make an appointment with me or any of the other fine GPs at the clinic to discuss your needs and circumstances.
We’ll help put the spring back in your step.
Dr Michael Macpherson is a local GP at Doctors of South Melbourne.