Immunoglobulin Therapy
all information

Immunoglobulin Therapy

(Intravenous Immunoglobulin [IVIg; IgG])

Pronounced: Im-mu-no-glob-u-lin

En Español (Spanish Version)


Immunoglobulins are proteins produced by plasma cells that act as antibodies. This therapy infuses concentrated, pooled immunoglobulin into the bloodstream. Immunoglobulin is vital to the immune system.

Immune System

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Parts of the Body Involved

Immunoglobulin therapy is typically administered intravenously through a vein in the arm or hand.

Reasons for Procedure

Immunoglobulin therapy is used to treat disorders of the immune system. Typically, you would receive this therapy if your body requires immunoglobulin because of an immunodeficiency (decrease in immune system). But IVIg is also an effective treatment for some autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Various conditions, including acute infections, may require antibodies to be restored and a boost to the immune system.

When the body begins to attack its own cells as a result of an autoimmune disease, or another disease weakens the immune system, immunoglobulin therapy can restore vital antibodies that can reduce inflammation in the body.

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

A small percentage of people may experience adverse effects. Anaphylactic shock (a severe, whole-body allergic reaction) is a possible complication of immunoglobulin therapy.

If you have diabetes , you may be at a slightly higher risk for certain complications from the procedure.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

No special instructions are given prior to the procedure. Before the immunoglobulin solution is administered, it is stringently screened for any viruses, diseases, or infections.

Immunoglobulin therapy may be administered in a doctor's office, clinic, or outpatient hospital.


No anesthesia is administered during the procedure.

Description of the Procedure

Concentrated immunoglobulin antibodies are collected from a healthy individual. These antibodies are added to a sterile solution, which is administered through IV to your vein.

After Procedure

The procedure is outpatient. You may return home following the procedure.

How Long Will It Take?

For adults, the infusion typically lasts 5-6 hours.

Will It Hurt?

The procedure is not painful. There may be some minor discomfort as the IV is inserted into the skin.

Possible Complications

Average Hospital Stay

Immunoglobulin therapy is an outpatient procedure.

Postoperative Care

The site where the IV was administered may become irritated. You should check with your physician if this happens. In most cases, you can treat the problem on your own by cleaning the sore area and using a topical ointment, if the doctor orders it. On some occasions, however, you could develop superficial thrombophlebitis , or a blood clot, which will need a doctor’s attention.


Some patients may begin to see an improvement in symptoms as soon as 24-48 hours following the procedure. Others may not see an improvement for 3-4 weeks.

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 administered for five days a month for 3-6 months. Following the initial therapy, maintenance therapy is administered every 3-4 weeks.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

As with the introduction of any foreign substance or chemical to the body, the possibility of anaphylactic shock exists. If you experience any of the following symptoms of anaphylactic shock, you should call the doctor immediately:

  • Wheezing and/or difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Slurred or abnormal speech
  • Rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations, weak or rapid pulse
  • Blue tint to the skin, lips, or fingernails
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling faint
  • Hives, rash, or itching
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea , or abdominal cramping
  • Cough or nasal congestion
  • Reddened skin


National Library of Medicine


British Columbia Ministry of Health

Canadian AIDS Society


Adverse effects of intravenous immunoglobulin therapy. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology website. Available at: . Accessed May 27, 2007.

Darabi, K, Abdel-Wahab, O, Dzik, WH. Current usage of intravenous immune globulin and the rationale behind it: the Massachusetts General Hospital data and a review of the literature. Transfusion 2006; 46:741.

Emerson GG, Herndon CN, Sreih AG. Pharmacotherapy . 2002;22(12):1638-1641.

Nydegger UE. Safety and side effects of IV immunoglobulin therapy. Clin Exp Rheum . 1996;14(suppl 15):S53-7.

Orange, JS, Hossny, EM, Weiler, CR, 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. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2006; 117:S525.

Sherer Y, Levy Y, Shoenfeld Y. Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy of antiphospholipid syndrome. Rheumatology . 2000;39:421-426. Available at . Accessed May 28, 2007.

Last reviewed April 2008 by Jill Landis, 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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