Nutrition, Total Parenteral

What is total 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 is parenteral nutrition given?

Before the procedure:

  • Your healthcare provider will ask you to sign a consent form to place the IV and start PN. The consent form will state the reason you are having the procedure, what happens during the procedure, and what you may expect afterward.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to any medicines.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any medicines, including nonprescription drugs, herbal remedies, or illegal drugs (if any).

During IV placement:

  • You will be given local anesthesia to numb the area where the IV will be placed so that it will not hurt.
  • You will have a thin, flexible tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your neck, chest, arm, or hand. This will allow you to receive PN. This tubing may also be used to give medicines, take out blood for testing and give you fluids.
  • After the IV line is put in, a transparent dressing will be put over the end of the catheter where it enters the skin. The dressing will be checked and changed by your provider or the nursing staff as needed.

What happens after the procedure?

  • You will be checked often by nursing staff.
  • You will have an X-ray of your chest to make sure that the end of the tube is in the correct place.
  • You will be given PN through the tube into your blood.
  • Your blood sugar will be checked regularly.
  • Your blood oxygen level may be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Trouble breathing
    • Swelling of your lips, tongue, and throat that make it hard to breathe
    • Hives
    • Skin rash or itching
    • Fever or chills
    • Redness, swelling or leaking around the area where the IV goes into your skin
    • Yellow skin or eyes
    • Swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs, or belly, or swollen hands or face
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Increased urination
    • Increased thirst and dry mouth
  • Ask questions about any medicine or treatment or information that you do not understand.

How long will I be in the hospital?

How long you need to stay in the hospital will depend on the reason you need parenteral nutrition, your continued need for parenteral nutrition when you leave the hospital, and how well you recover. This is often ranges between 8 to 12 days after feedings have started.

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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