Table of contentsWhat is the IV flow rate?IV flow rate formulaHow to calculate the IV flow rate?IV drip rate calculationsFAQs
This IV flow rate calculator (also an IV drip rate calculator) helps determine the correct drip rate of an intravenous fluid — based on the volume and time the medicine should be administered over that has been prescribed for the patient. You may have already noticed the abbreviation of intravenous into IV.
As administering medication comes with a big responsibility, we aim to make IV calculations easier. In the article below, you can find some information regarding the IV flow rate formula and how to put the IV flow rate estimations in practice. Also, take a look at our drip rate calculator, which helps you get through the whole process of intravenous drug preparation.
What is the IV flow rate?
The first thing you should know is that the flow rate formula is sometimes called the drip rate formula. Have you ever wondered why and how to calculate the IV flow rate? There are two options:
If you're in the hospital, you can use macrodrip or microdrip tubing without an electronic pump. Therefore, the IV flow rate is defined as the number of drops of medication a patient receives over a determined time (e.g., drops per minute). One drop is quite a small amount and cannot be divided into smaller parts — so the values for IV flow rate in this calculator are rounded to the digits column.
You can use an electronic infusion controller (infusion pump). In this case, the IV flow rate should be defined as the volume divided by the time of infusion — e.g., milliliters per minute or US fluid ounces per minute.
IV flow rate formula
To use the IV drip rate formula for infusions without a pump, you need to know:
- Drop factor.
- Total volume of the solution — you should know that there are some drugs which have to be diluted, and the specifics estimated with a solution dilution calculator in, e.g., saline solution or glucose.
- Time over which the patient should receive the drug.
So, what is drop factor? It is the number of drops it takes to make up one ml of fluid.
There are two common sizes for drop factor:
- 15 drops (ggts) per ml (for fluids with a density significantly greater than water, e.g., blood).
- 20 drops (ggts) per ml (for fluids with a density similar to water, e.g., most drugs dissolved in saline).
However, in our IV flow rate calculator, you can set your own drop factor. Once you know all the values, you can use the IV flow rate formula:
Flow rate (in drops) = Drop factor * Volume / Time
As mentioned above, this IV flow rate calculator also counts the IV flow rate in milliliters per minute at the same time:
Flow rate = Volume / Time
You might find it useful when using electronic infusion controllers.
How to calculate the IV flow rate?
Let's go through a quick example. Let's take a patient, who needs to receive 500 ml of intravenous saline solution, with a drop rate of 20 drops/ml. The whole infusion should last around 2 hours.
What is the drip rate?
20 ggts/ml × 500 ml / 120 min = 83 ggts/min
The correct flow rate is around 83 drops per minute.
If the nurse needed the flow rate in milliliters per minute, she could make use of the second line:
500 ml / 120 min = 4.17 ml/min
IV drip rate calculations
Giving the patient the right medication in the correct dose is a big responsibility. On the one hand, the doctor has to prescribe the proper dosage. On the other, nurses have to take care of its administration, double-checking the right prescriptions is being administered, any recalculations, and determining the IV drip rate.
The first thing that needs to be done is to review the patient's data: their age, body mass, and the amount of medication prescribed, often double-checked with a dosage calculator.
Administration of drugs in tablet form is easier since you either divide one tablet into parts or give a certain amount of tablets. However, when intravenous medication is considered, there are a couple of different types:
- Single-dose vial
- Multiple-dose vial
- Prefilled syringe containing a patient-specific dose
- Drug to dilute
Thankfully, now you know how to calculate the IV flow rate!
Remember that if you are a pediatrician, the dosages of medication your patient needs to receive may differ and are often calculated per body surface area or per body mass.
Once you have everything, always look carefully at the units of your calculations. In our IV flow rate calculator, you can switch between different volume units and times of administration. Remember to check it before counting!
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How do I calculate the IV flow rate?
To calculate the IV flow rate, you can follow these steps:
- Multiply the drop factor (the number of drops it takes to make up one milliliter of fluid) by the total volume of the drug solution.
- Divide the value from step 1 by the infusion time.
- That's all! You have now determined the drops per minute.
What is the drop factor in the IV flow rate formula?
The drop factor in the IV flow rate formula is the number of drops required to make up one milliliter (mL) of fluid. The drop factor is typically indicated on IV tubing packaging. It's an essential indicator for healthcare professionals to administer IV fluids and medications according to prescribed rates precisely.
Are IV flow rate calculations different for pediatric patients?
Calculating the intravenous (IV) flow rate for pediatric patients differs from that for adults, and it considers factors such as body surface area or body mass. Dosage requirements can also vary significantly from those used for adults. Note that pediatric IV administration should only be carried out by trained and licensed healthcare professionals.
What is the IV flow rate for 500 ml of intravenous saline solution?
If a patient requires 500 mL of saline solution over 2 hours with a drop factor of 20, the IV flow rate would be approximately 83 drops per minute. To easily determine IV flow rates for various scenarios, use the Omni IV flow rate calculator.
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