When patients cannot use their gastrointestinal tracts for nutrition, parenteral nutrition may be used to maintain or improve the patient's nutritional status. This form of intravenous treatment provides all the nutrients that are delivered to the patient. This treatment may be temporary or long-term.
The harmful effects of malnutrition on the overall health of a patient are well documented. Poor nutrition is associated with slowed or impaired recovery from illness and surgery. For wound healing, tissue maintenance, and faster recovery, patients need optimal nutritional intake. When a patient is unable to take in enough food on his own, there are two options. Enteral feeding is preferred because it is less invasive, has a lower risk for infection, and is safer than the parenteral method. Though enteral feeding is the preferred route of nutritional intake, parenteral nutrition plays an important role in many clinical situations. Patients who cannot consume enough nutrients on their own, or who cannot eat at all because of an illness, surgery, or an accident, may be fed through an intravenous line.
Patients receiving parenteral nutrition need to be monitored closely to ensure that the therapy is providing adequate amounts of fluids, minerals, and other nutrients that are needed. Laboratory testing will take place on a regular basis to monitor the patient's status.
Deanna M. Swartout-Corbeil R.N., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,