Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy is the infusion of immunoglobulins into a vein. This type of therapy is for people who have deficient or dysfunctional immune systems or who have autoimmune diseases.
Immunoglobulins are collected from a pool of human plasma and contain a wide variety of antibodies. The immunoglobulins come from plasma that has been vigorously screened, tested and found to be safe and free of HIV infection and the hepatitis virus.
IVIG has been used to treat symptoms associated with many autoimmune diseases, including autism. How IVIG works exactly with children with autism is uncertain. Perhaps it has an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain, or it may surpress the manufacturing of antibodies that attack the Central Nervous System myelin.
Dr. Sudhir Gupta did a study of ten children administering IVIG therapy. He gave each child IVIG therapy every four weeks for at least six months. He reported, "A consistent (although variable) change was observed in calmer and improved social behaviour, better eye contact, loss of echolalia and response to commands. The speech improved in terms of better articulation and improved vocabulary; however, little effect was observed on spontaneous meaningful speech in most patients. One of the patients almost completely recovered speech and another had marked improvement in speech. These two patients are attending regular school."
To administer an IVIG infusion, a needle attached to tubing is inserted into a vein and a solution of immunoglobulins is infused. Depending on individual protocol, therapy can take from one to five hours, and sometimes longer. The number of IVIG treatments depends on the patients diagnosis. In general, most patients with primary and secondary immune deficiencies receive infusions monthly. Patients with autoimmune diseases may only require IVIG treatment when problems arise.