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Parenteral Nutrition


Parenteral nutrition (PN) gives your body nutrients when you are not able to eat or cannot absorb nutrition from the food you eat. PN is given through an IV catheter (thin tube) placed in a vein in your arm, upper chest, or neck. PN provides you with water, protein, sugar, fats, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes. You may need PN for several days or longer.



  • You may get an infection at the catheter site, and it can spread throughout your body. A blood clot may form in your catheter, and it can travel through your bloodstream. These problems may become life-threatening. Your catheter may move out of place, or it may break. Your catheter may become blocked if it kinks, or if there is a buildup of PN solution.
  • You may become dehydrated. Your blood sugar level may rise too high. You may develop problems with your liver, gallbladder, or bones.

When you leave the hospital:

If you need PN after you leave the hospital, healthcare providers will teach you or someone close to you how to give PN at home. You will learn how to take care of your catheter, and change the dressing that covers your catheter site. Healthcare providers will make sure the correct supplies are delivered to your home, and remind you to keep your PN solution in the refrigerator. Healthcare providers will visit you regularly to monitor your health while you are getting PN.

Self-care while you are using PN:

  • Weigh yourself 3 to 4 times a week to monitor any weight changes.
  • Check your catheter site for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, tenderness, warmth, and discharge. Take your temperature as directed.
  • Keep track of how much PN and other IV liquids you take in, and how much you urinate.
  • Test your blood sugar level.
  • Follow up with your healthcare provider or specialist as directed. You will need to have your blood tested regularly. Blood tests may show how your organs are working, or if you have an infection.

Contact your healthcare provider or specialist if:

  • You have pain or swelling in your chest.
  • You have pain or discomfort in your neck or shoulder.
  • You are urinating less than your healthcare provider says you should.
  • You weigh more or less than your healthcare provider says you should.
  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow.
  • Veins appear on your chest that you did not have before.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, care, or PN equipment.

Seek immediate care or call 911 if:

  • You have a fever, or a fever with chills.
  • Your catheter site is red, swollen, tender, or warm, or there is a discharge from the catheter site.
  • Blood or PN solution leaks from your catheter.
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and you have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have pain or swelling in your arm.
  • Your armpit feels tender.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Parenteral Nutrition (Discharge Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.