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To IVIG or Not to IVIG in the Time of the Coronavirus

To IVIG or Not to IVIG in the Time of the Coronavirus
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Published on May 6, 2020

As a chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patient with a compromised immune system, my specialist-physician has recommended I receive monthly immunoglobulin (IVIG) infusions to protect against life-threatening infections like bacterial pneumonia.

IVIG bottleSo, for the past two years, I have made monthly trips to the local cancer clinic, where my care team administers the IVIG infusion over a three-hour period. I bring my laptop, settle in and catch up on work while the antibodies travel through my veins and strengthen my immune system.

The infusions have worked like a charm so far—I haven’t had a single infection! But now, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, how should I proceed, and what should my expectations be?

IVIG and the Coronavirus

IVIG is made from pooled donated blood products. The idea is to give immunocompromised patients like me the benefit of antibodies from healthy people. However, because IVIG does not include antibodies to COVID-19, at least not yet, the fact that these infusions require a three-hour in-person clinic visit creates a worry.

Is it better to go to the clinic for my infusion and risk exposure to the coronavirus? 

Or is it better to stay home and avoid the coronavirus, but skip the infusions that have protected me so well for so long?  

I know many of you are asking yourselves similar questions these days. I encourage you to discuss your risk level and treatment plan with your doctor. Can any of your upcoming appointments be achieved using telehealth? Virtual clinic visits have recently become a viable alternative for many types of appointments. Unfortunately, IVIG infusions aren’t one of them.

Weighing Risks and Benefits

After much consideration, and after listening to what leading experts have said during our recent Coronavirus Live Ask the Expert Webinars, I have decided I am going to my next appointment. Here’s why…

  • First, the IVIG infusion is not my only reason for monthly visits to the clinic. While there, I also get a blood test, so my doctor and I can assess disease progression and my overall health. Achieving these two goals with one visit makes the risk worth it, at least to me.
  • Second, I have received great value so far from the IVIG infusions. And, because of my compromised immune system, my general risk for infection is still there, coronavirus or no coronavirus.
  • IVIG appointmentAnd third, after discussing the situation with my doctor, I have a better understanding of the drastic and important measures my local clinic is taking to protect patients like me, including: meticulous and frequent cleaning, masks for everyone, no visitors and keeping patients widely physically distanced from each other.

A week ago, I might have hesitated to go to the clinic for my regular infusion. But now, as we slowly “open up” the country, I am weighing the benefits of “opening up” my own world as well. I will wear my mask, I will practice physical distancing, and I will safely receive the medical care I need, so I can continue to stay healthy and fight cancer. I am not worried. 

~Andrew Schorr


Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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