What is total parenteral nutrition?

Total Parenteral Nutrition
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Total parenteral nutrition (TPN): Overview

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) is liquid nutrition given through a tube (I.V.) that is put in a large vein in the arm, neck, or chest. You may need TPN because of a condition that makes it hard to eat or because of a severe illness, such as Crohn's disease or pancreatitis.

TPN is usually given for 12 to 14 hours each day. You may be able to get TPN while you sleep. Your doctor may recommend that a nurse visit you at home to help you get started with TPN.

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN)

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) gives a person liquid nutrition (such as protein, carbohydrates, and fats) through a tube (catheter) that is inserted into a vein. In a newborn, the tube may be inserted into the umbilical cord artery.

TPN places nutrients needed for growth and tissue repair directly into the blood, bypassing the digestive tract completely.

A person's blood sugar and blood chemicals (such as electrolytes) are monitored while they receive this type of nourishment.

How can you care for yourself when using total parenteral nutrition (TPN)?

To care for your IV

  • Follow your doctor's instructions for use and care of your IV. Your doctor, nurse, or other health professional will:
    • Tell you what fluids to give through the IV.
    • Show you how to care for the skin around the IV. Be sure to follow instructions on keeping the area clean.
    • Teach you how to watch for infection or blockage of the IV.

To give TPN

  • Follow your doctor's instructions for giving TPN. Do not change the dose or how often you get TPN without talking to your doctor first.
  • Wash your hands before you handle the TPN solution and supplies, or the IV.
  • Store the TPN solution in the refrigerator when you are not using it. Let the solution warm to room temperature before you use it. You can do this by placing the TPN bag on a clean table or kitchen counter for 2 to 3 hours before you use it. Never microwave the solution.
  • Always check each bag of TPN before you use it. If there is a problem with your TPN, save the bag and show it to your doctor or pharmacist.
    • Check the expiration date. Do not use it if it is past the expiration date.
    • Check the bag for leaks. Do not use it if there are any leaks.
    • Check the color of the TPN solution. Do not use the TPN if it is cloudy or has solid pieces floating in it.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions on how to safely dispose of used IV needles, IV tubing, and TPN bags.

What can you expect if your newborn is getting total parenteral nutrition (TPN)?

  • Your baby won't feel any pain from the tube.
  • The hospital staff will keep the tube and port clean. This helps prevent infections.
  • It can be scary to see tubes and wires attached to your baby. But these things help the doctor treat your baby. Some tubes supply air, fluid, or medicines to your baby. The wires are attached to machines that help the doctor keep track of your baby's vital signs. These include temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse rate.
  • It may seem that your baby is getting lots of tests. All of these tests help your doctor keep track of your baby's condition and give the best treatment possible.
  • It's hard to be apart from your baby, especially when you worry about your baby's condition. Know that the hospital staff is well prepared to care for babies with this condition. They will do everything they can to help. If you need it, ask for support from friends and family. You can also ask the hospital staff about counseling and support.

How does total parenteral nutrition (TPN) feel?

  • 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.

What is total parenteral nutrition (TPN)?

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.

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN): When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the I.V.
    • Red streaks leading from the area where the I.V. is put in.
    • Pus draining from the I.V. area.
    • A fever.
  • The I.V. comes out.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your weight goes up or down more than 5 pounds in a week.
  • You have any problems with your TPN.

How is total parenteral nutrition (TPN) in newborns done?

A doctor or specially trained nurse carefully places one end of a thin, flexible tube into one of your baby's major veins. This may be done through the belly button. 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 through the tube up to 24 hours a day.

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