total parenteral nutrition

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Total Parenteral Nutrition



Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) is a way of supplying all the nutritional needs of the body by bypassing the digestive system and dripping nutrient solution directly into a vein.


TPN is used when individuals cannot or should not get their nutrition through eating. TPN is used when the intestines are obstructed, when the small intestine is not absorbing nutrients properly, or a gastrointestinal fistula (abnormal connection) is present. It is also used when the bowels need to rest and not have any food passing through them. Bowel rest may be necessary in Crohn's disease, pancreatitis, ulcerative colitis, and with prolonged bouts of diarrhea in young children. TPN is also used for individuals with severe burns, multiple fractures, and in malnourished individuals to prepare them for major surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment. Individuals with AIDS or widespread infection (sepsis) may also benefit from TPN.


Individuals need to tell their doctor if they have any allergies, what medications they are taking, if they are diabetic, have had liver, kidney, heart, lung, or hormonal disorders, and if they are pregnant. All these factors can affect the type and amount of TPN required.


TPN is normally given through a large central vein. A catheter is inserted into the vein in the chest area under local anesthesia and sterile conditions. Often the placement is done in an operating room to decrease the chance of infection. Several different types catheters are used based on the reason TPN is needed and the expected length of treatment. Catheters are made of silicone. Once the catheter is in place, a chest x ray is done to make sure the placement is correct.
Normally TPN is administered in a hospital, but under certain conditions and with proper patient and caregiver education, it may also be used at home for long-term therapy. TPN solution is mixed daily under sterile conditions. Maintaining sterility is essential for preventing infection. For this reason, the outside tubing leading from the bag of solution to the catheter is changed daily, and special dressings covering the catheter are changed every other day.
The contents of the TPN solution are determined based on the age, weight, height, and the medical condition of the individual. All solutions contain sugar (dextrose) for energy and protein (amino acids). Fats (lipids) may also be added to the solution. Electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate are also included, as these are essential to the normal functioning of the body. Trace elements such as zinc, copper, manganese and chromium are also needed. Vitamins can be included in the TPN solution, and insulin, a hormone that helps the body use sugar, may need to be added. The TPN catheter is used only for nutrients; medications are not added to the solution. Adults need approximately 2 liters of TPN solution daily, although this amount varies with the age, size, and health of the individual. Special solutions have been developed for individuals with reduced liver and kidney function. The solution is infused slowly at first to prevent fluid imbalances, then the rate is gradually increased. The infusion process takes several hours.
Successful TPN requires frequent, often daily monitoring of the individual's weight, glucose (blood sugar) level, blood count, blood gasses, fluid balance, urine output, waste products in the blood (plasma urea) and electrolytes. Liver and kidney function tests may also be performed. The contents of the solution are individualized based on the results of these tests.


Preparation to insert the catheter involves creating a sterile environment. Other special preparations are not normally necessary.


During the time the catheter is in place, patients and caregivers must be alert to any signs of infection such as redness, swelling, fever, drainage, or pain.


TPN requires close monitoring. Two types of complications can develop. Infection, air in the lung cavity (pneumothorax) and blood clot formation (thrombosis) all can develop as a result of inserting the catheter into a vein. Metabolic and fluid imbalances can occur if the contents of the nutritional fluid are not properly balanced and monitored. The most common metabolic imbalance is hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, caused by abruptly discontinuing a solution high in sugar.

Key terms

Catheter — A hollow tube that is inserted into veins or other passages in the body to insert or remove fluid.
Electrolyte — An ion such as potassium sodium, or chloride dissolved in fluid that helps to regulate metabolic activities of the cell.
Fistula — An abnormal passage that connects one organ to another or that connects the organ to the outside of the body.

Normal results

Ideally TPN will provide all the nutrients in the correct quantity to allow the body to function normally.

Abnormal results

Fluid and electrolyte imbalances may occur that can lead to major organ failure.


Al-Jurf, Adel S. and Karen Dillon "Indications for Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN)." University of Iowa Virtual Hospital. March 2003 [cited 16 February 2005]. 〈〉.
"Drug Information: Total Parenteral Nutrition." Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia. 1 April 2003 [cited 16 February 2005].
"Nutritional Support: Total Parenteral Nutrition." The Merck Manual. Eds. Mark H. Beers and Robert Berkow. 1995–2005 [cited 27 February 2005].

to·tal pa·ren·ter·al nu·trit·ion (TPN),

nutrition maintained entirely by central intravenous injection or other nongastrointestinal route.

total parenteral nutrition

n. Abbr. TPN
The administration of nutrients by intravenous feeding, especially to individuals unable to ingest food through the digestive tract. Also called hyperalimentation.

total parenteral nutrition (TPN)

the administration of a nutritionally adequate hypertonic solution consisting of glucose, protein hydrolysates, minerals, and vitamins through an indwelling catheter into the superior vena cava or other main vein. Fat is also provided in a three-in-one solution or "piggy-backed." The high rate of blood flow results in rapid dilution of the solution, and full nutritional requirements can be met indefinitely. The procedure is used in prolonged coma, severe uncontrolled malabsorption, extensive burns, GI fistulas, and other conditions in which feeding by mouth cannot provide adequate amounts of the essential nutrients. In infants and children it is used when feeding via the GI tract is impossible, inadequate, or hazardous, such as in chronic intestinal obstruction from peritoneal sepsis or adhesions, inadequate intestinal length, or chronic nonremitting severe diarrhea. The hyperalimentation solution is infused through conventional tubing with an IV filter attached to remove any contaminates. In adults the catheter is placed directly into the subclavian vein and threaded through the right innominate vein into the superior vena cava. In infants and small children the catheter is usually threaded to the central venous location by way of the jugular vein, which is entered through a subcutaneous tunnel beneath the scalp. Strict asepsis must be maintained because infection is a grave and present danger of this therapy. Also called hyperalimentation, intravenous alimentation, parenteral hyperalimentation, total parenteral alimentation.
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Total parenteral nutrition: adult

total parenteral nutrition

TPN, see there.

to·tal par·en·ter·al nu·tri·tion

(TPN) (tō'tăl pă-ren'tĕr-ăl nū-trish'ŭn)
Feeding regimen maintained entirely by intravenous injection or other nongastrointestinal route.
See also: hyperalimentation

to·tal par·en·ter·al nu·tri·tion

(TPN) (tō'tăl pă-ren'tĕr-ăl nū-trish'ŭn)
Nutrition maintained entirely by central intravenous injection or other nongastrointestinal route.

total parenteral nutrition

see parenteral nutrition.

Patient discussion about total parenteral nutrition

Q. why is it that some women lack parental nutrition?

A. Do you mean breastfeeding? Some women have problem with their nipples, in rare cases the breast tissue isn't developed enough. Sometimes breast surgeries damage the milk ducts. Psychological factors also play a role.

More discussions about total parenteral nutrition
References in periodicals archive ?
Our study suggests that urine or respiratory tract colonisation is associated with an increased risk of Candida BSI, along with total parenteral nutrition, central venous lines and previous or current antibiotic use.
Infants were divided into two main groups; Group A (40 preterm infants who did not receive total parenteral nutrition, and Group B (45 preterm infants who received total parenteral nutrition during stay at the neonatal intensive care unit .
Changes in intestinal absorption of nutrients and brush border glycoproteins after total parenteral nutrition in rats.
Hepatobiliary complications of total parenteral nutrition.
Safety and efficacy of total parenteral nutrition delivered via a peripherally inserted central venous catheter.
2], % 32 Swallowing disorders, %(a) 7 Receiving total parenteral nutrition, % 9 Surgical Number 86 Age, mean [+ or -] SD 78.
Case management in home total parenteral nutrition cost identification analysis.
a 7-day antibiotic course, the first course of a 6-week cycled chemotherapy, or the first month of continuous total parenteral nutrition administration).
Likewise, though potential infection from total parenteral nutrition was a concern for 60% of respondents, the survey indicated 33% of hospitalized AIDS patients receive total parenteral nutrition rather than an enteral formula.
Pleban as chairman of the nutrition committee, the support team was charged with development of policies and procedures for total parenteral nutrition and continuing surveillance of nutritional practices.
194 for the provision of the component products for the manufacture of total parenteral nutrition
Objective: To compare the efficacy and safety of early nasogastric enteral nutrition (EN) with total parenteral nutrition (TPN) in patients with severe acute pancreatitis (SAP).

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