Intravenous antibiotics at home

Key points about intravenous antibiotics at home

  • Many hospitals offer an intravenous antibiotics at home service which lets you continue your hospital antibiotic treatment safely at home.
  • Home IV antibiotics service may also be called OPIVA (outpatient IV antibiotic), OPAT (outpatient antibiotic therapy) or HITH (hospital in the home).
  • Find out about it including the benefits of the service.
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In hospital, you may have been started on intravenous (IV) antibiotics to treat an infection. You may be well enough to go home before your course of IV antibiotics is finished. Many hospitals offer an intravenous antibiotics at home service which lets you finish your antibiotic treatment safely at home. 

Each hospital may have a different name for the home IV antibiotics service. This may be OPIVA (outpatient IV antibiotic), OPAT (outpatient antibiotic therapy) or HITH (hospital in the home).

The home IV antibiotic service is made up of infectious disease doctors, specialist nurses and pharmacists. In the community, there are district nurses who can help with the service.

If you are well enough to go home but need further IV treatment, a nurse from the home IV antibiotic service will meet with you in hospital to decide if you are suitable for the service. The process will be fully explained to you. 

If you join the service, arrangements will be made to make sure you are able to go home safely. The team will talk to you about the following:

  • How you will get your supply of antibiotics and equipment.
  • How your doses will be given.
  • How to deal with problems such as blocked lines and missed doses.
  • Who to contact if you need any help.
  • How to look after your intravenous line.
  • What to do at the end of your treatment.

You will be able to be at home in a comfortable and familiar setting rather than staying in the hospital. Feedback from previous patients has shown that they would choose it again rather than having a longer hospital stay. It allows you to maintain your independence, be back with your whānau and friends and even return to work.

Most patients who go home on IV antibiotics have a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC), also called a PICC line put in. Read more about PICC lines.

Your PICC line will then be used to deliver antibiotics. The most common way of having your antibiotics is from an infusor. These are a lightweight, single-use, disposable device which is used to deliver medicines (like IV antibiotics) slowly over a certain time period. Inside the infusor is a balloon that holds your IV antibiotics. The image below shows how your infusor bottle will look before you start your dose. As the dose is delivered, the balloon holding your antibiotic becomes empty and shrinks. It is important to know that:

  • The bottles are stored in the fridge until you are ready to use them. Let your nurse know if you do not have a fridge at home.
  • The infusor will be connected to your PICC line. It will be placed in a small waist bag (bum bag) so you can comfortably move around.
  • At the end of the 24 hours, a new infusor is connected. 
  • The balloon can empty before your next dose is due - this is normal and nothing to worry about.


Image credit: Infusor (Baxter, AUS)

The service is set up for what you need. Most community teams provide nurses who can visit you in your home and administer your antibiotic. Some people choose to give themselves the antibiotic, or a whānau member/friend will take on this role. If this is the case then you or your family member/friend will be taught how to do this and will be assessed in hospital by the team.

You will start your antibiotics in hospital. This way your healthcare team can monitor your initial response to the treatment and check if you have any side effects like allergic reactions.

Occasionally your IV line can become blocked or an infection can develop. If there are any problems then contact your healthcare team (you will be provided with contact information by the home IV antibiotic team) and you will be quickly assessed and if necessary, readmitted back into hospital. 

When you are at home with IV antibiotics, you will need to have regular blood tests (usually once a week). You may need to have regular clinic appointments during your treatment. This is so the home IV antibiotic team can see if your infection is improving and can check how you are getting on at home.

Once the home IV antibiotic team are happy that your infection has gone, you can be discharged from the service. If that is the end of your treatment, the team will arrange to remove any administration lines.

The home IV antibiotic team will give you a list of people you can contact if you have any questions or concerns while part of the service. 

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Credits: Healthify He Puna Waiora editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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