Nutrition, Parenteral Discharge Information

What is parenteral nutrition?

If you are unable to eat or drink enough to get the calories, vitamins, protein and minerals your body needs, then you may need to get nutrition intravenously, through a vein. You may need this because you can’t eat due to injury or illness, or because you have a problem with your intestine that keeps your body from absorbing the food you eat.

Parenteral nutrition (PN) is a liquid mixture of nutrients mixed to meet your specific nutritional needs. When PN is needed to provide all of your daily nutrition, it is called total parenteral nutrition, or TPN. TPN is a mix of protein, sugar, fats, vitamins, electrolytes, and minerals. TPN is given through tubing that is placed into a large vein in the central part of your body, called a central line. The tubing is usually threaded through a vein in your arm or can be put in between your collarbone and your neck.

Sometimes PN must be given into a vein in your arm or in the back of your hand through a small tube (IV catheter). This may be done when a central line is not available or when you are able to get some of your daily nutrients by eating and only need some nutrition given through an IV. In these cases, the solution given is called partial parenteral nutrition or PPN.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

You or your caregiver will need to learn to give PN and care for the IV site. Your healthcare team will teach you what you need to know to feel safe and comfortable taking care of the IV at home.


  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines and your PN. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take them.
    • Follow your provider’s instructions exactly for giving yourself medicines and PN through your IV.
    • Be sure you understand how to use the IV pump with your PN. Never give PN without a pump,
    • Do not use the PN liquid if it becomes cloudy or contains particles.
    • Always flush the IV with saline after giving medicines or PN to prevent clogging the tube.
    • Carry a list of your medicines and PN in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
  • You may need to begin to monitor your blood sugar regularly. This medicine may affect your blood sugar level.
  • Follow your provider’s instructions for cleaning and caring for the IV site, which may include:
    • Flushing the line with a small amount of fluid a couple of times a week. Your provider will show you how to do this and tell you how often to do it.
    • Keeping the area where the IV line enters the skin and the dressing clean and dry
    • Watching for signs of infection (fever, chills, unexplained tiredness, redness, pus, tenderness)
    • Avoid catching the end of the IV tubing on your clothing or other things


  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
  • Keep appointments for any routine testing you may need. You will need to have lab tests regularly to see how well this product is working. Your weight will also be monitored.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.

Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling of your lips, tongue, and throat

If you have any of these symptoms, do not drive yourself.

Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Hives
  • Skin rash or itching
  • Fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling or leaking around the area where the IV goes into your skin
  • Fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C)
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs, or belly, or swollen hands or face
  • Swelling in your arm or around your IV site
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst and dry mouth
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-12
Last reviewed: 2015-01-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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