What Is Parenteral Nutrition

Overview of Parenteral Nutrition

Parenteral nutrition (PN) is intravenous administration of nutrition, which may include protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals and electrolytes, vitamins and other trace elements for patients who cannot eat or absorb enough food through tube feeding formula or by mouth to maintain good nutrition status. Achieving the right nutritional intake in a timely manner can help combat complications and be an important part of a patient’s recovery. Parenteral nutrition is sometimes called Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN).

Who Receives Parenteral Nutrition?

People of all ages receive parenteral nutrition. It may be given to infants and children, as well as to adults.

People can live well on parenteral nutrition for as long as it is needed. Many times, parenteral nutrition is used for a short time; then it is lessened or discontinued when the person begins to switch to tube feeding or eat enough by mouth. Parenteral nutrition bypasses the normal digestion in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It is a sterile liquid chemical formula given directly into the bloodstream through an intravenous (IV) catheter (needle in the vein).

What is PN Illustration

For What Diseases or Conditions Would Patients Need PN?

Patients may need PN for any variety of diseases or conditions that impair food intake, nutrient digestion or absorption. Some diseases and conditions where PN is indicated include but are not limited to short bowel syndrome, GI fistulas, bowel obstruction, critically ill patients, and severe acute pancreatitis. Some patients may require this therapy for a short time and there are other patients who have received PN at home for a lifetime.

How Many Patients in the U.S. Receive PN?

Many hospitalized patients in the U.S. receive parenteral nutrition. According to the 2014 National Inpatient Survey data (latest available statistics), patients received PN in over 290,000 hospital stays. About 43% of those were for children and newborns. Individuals can also receive this therapy at home and in long-term care facilities. It is estimated that about 25,000 patients receive PN at home. 

For more information and updates on this topic, contact Peggi Guenter, PhD, RN Senior Director for ASPEN at [email protected].

* AHRQ Healthcare Costs and Utilization Project (HCUP) Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) 2014 data. http://hcup.ahrq.gov/
** Mundi M, et al. Prevalence of home parenteral and enteral nutrition in the United States. Nutr Clin Pract. 2017.