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Parenteral Nutrition

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is 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.

Why may I need PN?

  • You have had surgery on your intestines or digestive tract.
  • You have a medical condition that prevents your intestines from working, such as a blockage, Crohn disease, or short-bowel syndrome.
  • You have other medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), pancreatitis, or hyperemesis gravidarum.
  • You have severe burns or other trauma

What are the risks of PN?

  • 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.

What will happen when I leave the hospital?

If you need PN after you leave the hospital, a healthcare provider 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. Your healthcare provider 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.

How do I care for myself while I am using PN at home?

  • 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 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.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • 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.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© Copyright Merative 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Learn more about Parenteral Nutrition

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Further information

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