What Is Parenteral Nutrition

All people need food to live. Sometimes a person cannot eat any or enough food because of an illness. The stomach or bowel may not be working normally, or a person may have had surgery to remove part or all of these organs. When this occurs, and you are unable to eat, nutrition must be supplied in a different way. One method is “parenteral nutrition” (intravenous nutrition).  Below are some basic facts about parenteral nutrition.

Who Receives Parenteral Nutrition?

People of all ages have received parenteral nutrition. It may be given to infants and children as well as to adults. People can live very well on parenteral nutrition for as long as it is needed. Many times, parenteral nutrition is used for a short time; then it is removed when the person can begin to eat normally again.

Normal digestion occurs when food is broken down in the stomach and bowel, then absorbed in the bowel. These absorbed products are carried by the blood to all parts of the body.

Parenteral nutrition bypasses the normal digestion in the stomach and bowel. It is a special liquid food mixture given into the blood through an intravenous (IV) catheter (needle in the vein). The mixture contains proteins, carbohydrates (sugars), fats, vitamins and minerals (such as calcium). This special mixture may be called parenteral nutrition and was once called total parenteral nutrition (TPN), or hyperalimentation.

How Is Parenteral Nutrition Supplied?

A special intravenous (IV) catheter is placed in a large vein in the chest or arm. It can stay in place for as long as needed. The nurse cares for the catheter. Proper care is required to avoid infection and clotting. Different kinds of catheters may be used. Common names of these catheters are Hickman, Broviac, PICC, triple lumen, double lumen or single lumen catheters, and ports. Nutrition is given through this large vein. Your health care team (doctors, nurses, dietitians and pharmacists) can talk with you about the different types.

Parenteral Nutrition Fact Sheet