Learning About Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN)

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What is total parenteral nutrition?

Sometimes your digestive system isn't able to process foods. Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) gives you liquid nutrition through a tube (catheter) inserted into a vein. These nutrients include protein, carbohydrate, and fats. The nutrients go directly into the blood. They don't go through the digestive tract.

You may need TPN if you:

  • Have an injury to or had part of your intestines removed.
  • Have a problem that makes it hard to eat and digest food. These problems include inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis) or pancreatitis.
  • Have had some medical treatments. TPN lets your intestines rest during healing.

You can have TPN for days, weeks, or as long as needed. When your body is able to digest food, your doctor will stop giving you TPN.

How is TPN done?

You may get medicine to make you relax or sleep and to numb the area of your chest or neck where the TPN will go in.

Then the doctor makes a cut (incision) and places one end of a thin, flexible tube into a vein. He or she takes an X-ray to make sure that one end of the tube is at the right place in your body. The other end of the tube is outside your body, where the liquid TPN goes in. This is called the port.

TPN comes in pouches that are attached to a pump. The pump delivers the nutrients into the tube at a steady, controlled rate. The liquid goes into your body very slowly for 12 to 14 hours each day.

What can you expect while having TPN?

  • You won't feel any pain from the tube inside your body. The port may feel uncomfortable at first. But you will have less discomfort over time.
  • You aren't likely to feel hungry while you are having TPN.
  • The hospital staff will do all that they can to keep the tube and port sterile. This helps prevent infections.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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