Parenteral nutrition, often called total parenteral nutrition, is the medical term for infusing a specialized form of food through a vein (intravenously). The goal of the treatment is to correct or prevent malnutrition.
Parenteral nutrition provides liquid nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes. Some people use parenteral nutrition to supplement feeding through a tube placed into the stomach or small bowel (enteral nutrition), and others use it by itself.
People whose digestive systems either can't absorb or can't tolerate adequate food eaten by mouth use parenteral nutrition. When used outside the hospital, intravenous feeding is called home parenteral nutrition. Using home parenteral nutrition may be necessary for weeks or months, or in some cases for life.
You may need parenteral nutrition for one of the following reasons:
Catheter infection is a common and serious complication of parenteral nutrition. Other potential short-term complications of parenteral nutrition include blood clots, fluid and mineral imbalances, and problems with blood sugar metabolism.
Long-term complications may include too much or too little of trace elements, such as iron or zinc, and the development of liver disease. Careful monitoring of your parenteral nutrition formula can help prevent or treat these complications.
Parenteral nutrition is delivered through a thin, flexible tube (catheter) that has been inserted into a vein. Doctors with special training in nutrition work with you to determine the type of catheter that's best for you. The two main catheter options for delivering parenteral nutrition are:
The catheter placement procedure is usually done after you've received heavy sedation or anesthesia. The catheter will be inserted into a large vein leading to the heart. Parenteral nutrition through this large vein can deliver nutrients quickly and lower the risk of catheter infection.
Your team will use laboratory testing to monitor your responses to parenteral nutrition. They will also periodically evaluate your fluid balance, the catheter site, and your ability to switch to tube feeding or normal oral feeding.
You will have follow-up exams to assess your parenteral nutrition plan. Depending on your reason for using parenteral nutrition, at some point your care team may help you decrease the amount you need. In some cases, your team will help wean you off it entirely.
Specially trained health care providers show you and your caregivers how to prepare, administer and monitor parenteral nutrition at home. Your feeding cycle is usually adjusted so that parenteral nutrition infuses overnight, freeing you from the pump during the day.
Some people report a quality of life on parenteral nutrition similar to that of receiving dialysis. Fatigue is common in people receiving home parenteral nutrition.