What Is Total Parenteral Nutrition

If you or your loved one is facing a medical condition that makes it difficult or impossible for your digestive system to absorb nutrients, your medical providers may recommend parenteral nutrition as a solution. In some cases, your doctor may suggest that you opt for total parenteral nutrition, while in other cases, they may want you to go with partial parenteral nutrition solutions. Either way, it’s helpful to understand what parenteral nutrition is and what types are available.

The article below will share information about this treatment option, including the different kinds of parenteral nutrition and the methods used to deliver them.

What is parenteral nutrition?

At its core, parenteral nutrition is a medical treatment that delivers crucial nutrients and calories to the body through methods that bypass the digestive system. This makes it ideal for patients whose digestive systems are temporarily or permanently unable to absorb nutrition. It can also help patients who need more nutrients than they can consume orally. 

What are the different types of parenteral nutrition?

Parenteral nutrition can be categorized using two different characteristics. Some professionals divide parenteral nutrition into two groups based on the percentage of nutrition that the parenteral nutrition covers for the patient. In these cases, parenteral nutrition is either considered partial parenteral nutrition (PPN) if it takes care of less than 100% of nutritional needs or total parenteral nutrition (TPN) if it covers 100% of the patient’s nutritional intake.

Partial parenteral nutrition is used when someone needs to supplement existing methods of feeding, such as regular eating and drinking. Total parenteral nutrition is employed for patients who cannot meet any of their nutritional needs with other forms of feeding.

Sometimes, parenteral nutrition is also labeled based on the location of the parenteral nutrition equipment. These two types are called central parenteral nutrition (CPN) and peripheral parental nutrition (PPN). Providers administer CPN via a central vein. Typically, they use the superior vena cava beneath the collarbone. Since this method uses a bigger catheter, it can pump greater amounts of nutrients into the body with higher caloric counts. This is why it’s commonly used for TPN. 

Medical professionals administer peripheral parental nutrition through a peripheral vein that is not as big as the superior vena cava. While the vein is smaller, it is easier to access in the patient’s limbs or neck, so it’s ideal for temporary parenteral nutrition. 

How does parenteral nutrition work?

Parenteral nutrition delivers water, proteins, fats, vitamins, carbohydrates, and minerals to the body through a catheter and chemical compound. While there are standard formulas, your medical team will review lab results to formulate the right balance for your health and nutritional needs.

Some patients, such as those with severe gastrointestinal illness, may need to receive nutrients through this method for the rest of their lives. For others who simply need to supplement other forms of feeding, it may provide a temporary nutritional boost.