Parenteral nutrition or (PN) is nutrition that is delivered intravenously or through IV drip. This delivery system provides all the essential nutrients including vitamins, minerals (electrolytes), protein, fat, carbohydrates and trace elements that are necessary for the optimal functioning of the human body. This is also referred to as Total Parenteral Nutrition or TPN. The intravenous fluids are administered either via a Tunneled Catheter or Implanted Catheter that is surgically inserted into a large vein that leads directly to the heart. The procedure is commonly performed under general anesthetic or sedation.
What Is Parenteral Nutrition Used For?
Intravenous nutrition is most often used to provide nutrition to patients who have serious health conditions that prevents them from being able to eat, where a feeding tube is unsuitable or where there is minimal to no absorption of nutrients through regular digestion. Parenteral Nutrition may be administered for the following health conditions:
– Cancer where there is an obstruction to the bowel or where treatments such as chemotherapy lead to poor absorption of nutrients.
– Chohn’s Disease that causes extreme inflammation of the bowel resulting in severe pain as well as narrowing of the bowel which leads to poor digestion and absorption of nutrients.
– Short Bowel Syndrome where the small intestine is shortened either due to a genetic/birth defect, injury or surgery to the extent that restricts the absorption of nutrients.
– Ischemic Bowel Disease resulting in poor blood flow to the bowel and therefore limiting the absorption of nutrients.
– Any other abnormal bowel function that impedes digestion or the absorption of nutrients.
While these are the most common conditions where Parenteral Nutrition may be used, it is not limited to providing adequate nutrition in these conditions.
How Long Can Parenteral Nutrition Be Administred?
The duration of the Parenteral Nutrition depends largely on the type and extent of the health condition that is resulting in an inability to receive the required nutrients. Commonly, the nutrients are delivered on a short-term basis until the body is able to resume normal digestion. A feeding tube may follow Parenteral Nutrition to aid recovery of the bowel.
However, this type of intravenous nutrition can be used to effectively sustain a patient on a long-term or ongoing basis. In cases where ongoing intravenous nutrition is required, Parenteral Nutrition can be administered at home.
What Are The Risks Associated With Parenteral Nutrition?
The most common risk is infection where the catheter is inserted into the vein. However, infection is rare in a hospital setting and is most likely to occur where Parenteral Nutrition is administered at home. There are also risks associated with the insertion of the catheter as per any type of surgical procedure.
Another risk is that insufficient trace elements may be delivered to the body (iron or zinc). It is therefore important for a patient to be monitored and tested regularly in order to ensure that sufficient nutrition is being received. While there are little to no side effects to the treatment, it may result in low energy levels, lethargy and fatigue.
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