What Is Parenteral Nutrition?

Parenteral nutrition, also known as intravenous feeding, is a method of getting nutrition into the body through the veins. While it is most commonly referred to as total parenteral nutrition (TPN), some patients need to get only certain types of nutrients intravenously.

Parenteral nutrition is often used for patients with Crohn's disease, cancer, short bowel syndrome, and ischemic bowel disease.

What Does Parenteral Nutrition Do?

Parenteral nutrition delivers nutrients such as sugar, carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, electrolytes, and trace elements to the body.

Who Benefits from Parenteral Nutrition?

Parenteral nutrition is used to help people who cannot or should not get their core nutrients from food. Common examples include patients with cancer, Crohn's disease, and short bowel syndrome. It is also used on patients with conditions that result from low blood flow to the bowels.

What Are the Side Effects of Parenteral Nutrition?

The most common side effects of parenteral nutrition are mouth sores, poor night vision, and skin changes. Patients should speak with their doctors if these conditions do not go away. Other, less common side effects include:

  • changes in heartbeat
  • confusion
  • convulsions or seizures
  • difficulty breathing
  • fast weight gain or weight loss
  • fatigue
  • fever or chills
  • increased urination
  • jumpy reflexes
  • memory loss
  • muscle twitching, weakness, or cramps
  • stomach pain
  • swelling of the hands, feet, or legs
  • thirst
  • tingling in the hands or feet
  • vomiting

If you experience any of those reactions, contact your doctor immediately.

How Is Parenteral Nutrition Administered?

Parenteral nutrition is administered through a needle or catheter. This is placed in a large vein that goes to the heart. It is usually used for 10 to 12 hours a day, five to seven times a week. Most intravenous feedings are completed at home.

What Are the Steps?

Patients check their nutrient bags for floating particles and discoloration. They then insert a needle or catheter into an area designated by the doctor.

Patients leave the bag and needle in place for most or all of the day. Then they remove the nutrient bag and needle.

What Are the Benefits of Parenteral Nutrition?

Parenteral nutrition supplies the nutrients that some patients cannot get on their own. These nutrients are vital in maintaining high energy, hydration, and strength levels.

What Are the Risks of Parenteral Nutrition?

The most common risk of using parenteral nutrition is developing catheter infection. Other risks include blood clots, liver disease, and bone disease.

It is essential to maintain clean tubing, needles, catheters, and other equipment to minimize these risks.

How Does a Patient Prepare for Parenteral Nutrition?

A patient must speak with a doctor about nutritional needs. The doctor then prescribes the appropriate liquid. This is stored by the patient in a refrigerator or freezer.

Each dose must be removed from the fridge four to six before use. This allows enough time for the liquid to reach room temperature. Frozen packets should be moved to the refrigerator 24 hours before use to thaw.

What Is the Outlook After Parenteral Nutrition?

After parenteral nutrition, most patients experience some improvement in their condition. They may not be cured of their symptoms. However, their bodies are able to heal more quickly. Patients feel stronger and more energized and stronger. This allows them to do more in spite of their condition.

A physician or dietician will reassess a patient's nutritional needs after several weeks to see if any adjustments need to be made in the doses.

What Are the Results of Parenteral Nutrition?

The results of parenteral nutrition are maintained health and energy levels in the body. Some patients only need this treatment temporarily. Most use it throughout their lives. Nutritional needs may change with time.