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What to Expect from MS Infusion Therapies

What to Expect from MS Infusion Therapies

Answers to seven common questions about infusion therapies for multiple sclerosis.

Several therapies for multiple sclerosis are delivered with an infusion, where a venous catheter is inserted into a vein and medicine is delivered into the bloodstream. If you have been prescribed an infusion therapy for MS, the information below gives a basic overview of what you can expect at your appointment. If you have questions or concerns about infusion therapy, talk to your healthcare provider or the staff at the infusion center, who will be able to provide you with more detailed information.

What therapies are delivered with infusion?
There are more than a dozen different disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) for treating MS, and a few of them are delivered by infusion. Disease-modifying therapies work by interrupting the autoimmune response that attacks nerve tissue in people who have MS. Patients may also receive an infusion of corticosteroids to treat an MS flare-up or relapse. Corticosteroids are used to shorten the duration and severity of flare-ups; there are also corticosteroids that treat MS flare-ups that are taken as an oral medication.

Where do I receive an infusion?
Infusions are typically administered at a healthcare provider’s office or an infusion center, an outpatient healthcare facility that specializes in infusion therapies for a variety of conditions.

How long does an infusion take?
The duration of the infusion depends on the specific MS therapy being used, but most take between one and four hours. Dosing schedules also vary, with some therapies requiring multiple doses delivered over consecutive days, and others requiring doses once a month. An infusion will be followed by an observation period, where the healthcare providers at the infusion center monitor for side effects and check to see how you are feeling. Observation times also vary depending on the specific therapy being used. Some infusion therapies also require a premedication period, where you will be given a medication prior to your infusion, to help prepare your body for the infusion.

What should you do to prepare for an infusion?
In the week leading up to your infusion, confirm all the details such as date, time and location, as well as the specific treatment you are receiving and if you need any premedication before the infusion. Have a list of information that the staff at the infusion center might need, such as allergies, medications you are currently taking, health conditions they may need to know about and your emergency contacts. Make sure to get plenty of rest and stay well hydrated in the days leading up to your infusion. However, check with your healthcare provider about restrictions the day of your infusion—you may need to abstain from caffeine and smoking in the hours before your appointment. It is also very important to let your healthcare providers at the infusion centers know if you have experienced any worsening of your symptoms since your last visit. A change in your condition may mean that you need to be evaluated by a healthcare provider.

Should you bring a friend?
Speak with your healthcare provider about whether it is safe to drive yourself home after your infusion. Even if it is a possibility, it’s common for patients receiving infusions to bring a friend or loved one along for support, and to have someone drive them home after the infusion is over.

What should you wear?
Wear comfortable shoes and dress in loose-fitting clothing. Loose-fitting clothing will be more comfortable during the infusion, and will also provide easier access for the IV and any monitors (such as blood pressure and heart rate) that you may need to wear during and after the infusion. You may also want to dress in layers, in case you start to feel too warm or too cold—but keep in mind that one arm may be occupied with the IV during the infusion, which means you won’t be able to take off a sleeve once the infusion starts, and that you’ll only have one hand when going to the bathroom. Do not wear perfume or fragrances—other patients may be allergic.

What should you bring?
Bring something to keep yourself entertained during the infusion. Read, listen to an audiobook or podcast, or watch a movie or TV show on your phone or tablet. Many infusion centers provide water, coffee, snacks, blankets and pillows, but you can also bring your own. Check with the staff at the center to see what they recommend you bring.

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