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Learning About Total Parenteral Nutrition in Children

What is total parenteral nutrition (TPN)?

Sometimes a child's digestive system can't absorb nutrients. Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) gives your child protein, carbohydrate, and fats through a tube (catheter). This tube is inserted into a vein. The tube allows liquid nutrients to go directly into the blood. The blood carries the nutrients to the tissues and organs that need them. These nutrients do not have to go through the digestive system.

Your child may need TPN because of:

  • A condition that makes it hard to absorb nutrients from food.
  • Medical treatment or surgery on your child's digestive tract. TPN gives your child's intestines time to heal.

How is TPN done?

The doctor carefully places one end of a thin, flexible tube into a major vein. The doctor then takes an X-ray to make sure that the inside end of the tube is in the right place. The outside end of the tube is called the port. That's where the TPN goes in.

TPN comes in a pouch. This is attached to a pump. The pump sends the nutrients into the tube at a steady, controlled rate. The liquid goes into your child's body very slowly.

What can you expect while your child is having TPN?

  • Your child won't feel any pain from the tube inside their body. The port may feel uncomfortable at first. But it will feel less uncomfortable over time.
  • Your child isn't likely to feel hungry while having TPN.

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