Hypodermoclysis is a medical procedure that is not widely used, but is sometimes practiced in long-term care facilities. It involves the subcutaneous infusion of fluids to a patient who has become dehydrated. Prior to 1950, hypodermoclysis was commonly used by the medical community but it fell to the wayside following some well-publicized bad reactions to the treatment.
Subcutaneous infusion is similar to intravenous (IV) infusion. It involves the same kind of tubing and saline or glucose solution but, instead of placing the needle into a vein, small butterfly needles hooked up to tubing are placed under the skin in several sites. Typically, up to two sites on the body can be used.
Hypodermoclysis is intended for short-term use to treat dehydration. The needles are commonly placed under the skin on the chest, stomach or thighs. These sites are selected because they are optimum for the patient to begin absorbing the fluids immediately. In treatment lasting longer than five days, these needle sites must be moved to avoid complications. For intravenous infusion, the site must be rotated every three days.
Up to 1 milliliter (ml) of fluid per minute is recommended for hypodermoclysis. This can be safely increased to 2 ml of fluid every minute if two sites are utilized at the same time. Long-term care facilities typically utilize this type of treatment for patients who are unable to take fluids orally and when an IV is not necessary.
Hypodermoclysis is often chosen because the slow rate of fluid delivery removes the need for a pump. It also means constant supervision is not necessary, as it is with IV infusion. While subcutaneous infusion is still somewhat controversial because of inexperienced or improper use, it does have its place within the medical community.
This method of fluid infusion is more common in Canada and Britain. It is, however, gaining ground in the United States. Most study data dealing with this type of medical treatment come from Canada and many within the healthcare profession are lobbying for increased use of subcutaneous infusions.
The dangers associated with hypodermoclysis are commonly related to improper routes of administration utilized by untrained staff, or the improper use of fluids for rehydration. For example, if the wrong type of saline or glucose solution is used during the process, it can lead to heart attacks or blood sugar disturbances that can result in fatalities. Under proper medical supervision, hypodermoclysis is considered to be a safe and effective way to assist patients suffering from dehydration.