Risks That May Come With Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN)

What risks are associated with TPN? Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) is a method of delivering nutrients to the body intravenously, bypassing the gastrointestinal tract. It is commonly used in hospital settings for patients who cannot eat or absorb nutrients orally or enterally. While TPN can be life-saving, it carries several risks and side effects. Therefore, it’s essential to learn more about total parenteral nutrition and its side effects, as shown below. 

1. Possible Blood Clots

Healthcare providers have established that TPN may increase the risk of blood clots. This is due to the catheter placed in a vein for TPN delivery. The catheter can damage the vein and cause inflammation, which can lead to clotting. In addition, this method of nutrition bypasses the digestive system, so there’s a chance that the intestines will absorb too much iron. This can lead to an excess of iron in the blood, another risk factor for developing blood clots. 

2. Low Blood Sugars

Essentially, TPN delivers a high concentration of glucose directly into the bloodstream. For most people, this would cause blood sugar levels to spike. However, patients who are on TPN may not have a functioning pancreas, which is responsible for producing insulin. Therefore, these patients may not be able to regulate their blood sugar levels properly and may experience low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). In severe cases, hypoglycemia can be life-threatening.

3. Liver Failure

This is one of the most serious risks associated with TPN. Total parental nutrition can cause a build-up of fat in the liver, known as fatty liver disease. This build-up of fat can eventually lead to liver failure. In addition, TPN can also increase the risk of developing a condition called cholestasis, which is a blockage of bile flow. This blockage can also lead to liver damage and failure. Therefore, patients on TPN must be monitored closely for any signs or symptoms of liver damage, such as fatigue, yellowing of the skin (jaundice), and abdominal pain.

4. Kidney Damage

Another serious complication of TPN is kidney damage. The high glucose levels delivered through TPN can cause glycosuria when there is too much sugar in the urine. Glycosuria can lead to kidney damage and failure. In addition, TPN can also cause a build-up of toxins in the blood, which can damage the kidneys. Therefore, patients on TPN must be monitored closely for any signs or symptoms of kidney damage, such as increased thirst, urination, and fatigue.

5. Infection

Because TPN is delivered directly into the bloodstream, there’s a risk of infection. The catheter that’s used for TPN delivery can become infected, which can then lead to a blood infection (sepsis). In addition, if TPN solutions are stored at room temperature, it increases the risk of bacteria growth. Therefore, TPN solutions must be prepared and stored properly to avoid infection.


As you can see, there are several risks associated with total parenteral nutrition. However, these risks can be minimized with proper care and monitoring. Discuss the risks and benefits with your healthcare provider if you’re considering TPN. Contact Chemique Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for more information about TPN solutions and their side effects.