Parenteral Nutrition

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What is total parenteral nutrition?

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) is an intravenous (IV) liquid mixture that provides nutrients directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. These nutrients—which include carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals—help with normal growth and development.

TPN solution is administered by infusion pump through a special IV catheter that is placed surgically into a person’s vein. TPN is considered a life-sustaining treatment for individuals who are unable to digest and absorb adequate nutrition when eating foods by mouth or those receiving tube feedings.

What are some common GI conditions that require support from TPN?

Conditions that impair the ability to digest and absorb nutrients may require nutrition support with TPN. Some common conditions include short bowel syndrome, GI fistulas (abnormal connections between separate parts of the GI tract), bowel obstructions, and, in some cases, critical illness such as coma or traumatic brain injury.

Are there risks of using TPN?

TPN requires a permanent catheter that is surgically placed in the skin. The most significant risk of TPN is infection to the skin or at the insertion site, or a more serious blood infection. Other potential complications include catheter displacement, blood clots, and long-term liver damage if TPN is not properly managed.

How long can someone expect to need TPN?

TPN may be temporary or long-term. During an acute illness or hospitalization, it may be needed only temporarily. Sometimes TPN can be required longer-term based on the medical condition.

Regardless of the condition, the typical goal is to eventually wean the patient off of TPN. However, there are cases when TPN is needed throughout an individual’s lifetime.

Who helps manage someone’s TPN prescription and needs?

TPN is typically managed by a medical team to best ensure your child is meeting their nutritional goals safely. This team may include a medical provider (MD, PA, NP), nursing staff, dietitian, and pharmacist.

Where can I find support and resources if my child needs TPN?

American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition

Oley Foundation


FAQs: HPN. (2020, October 2020). Oley.

Parenteral Nutrition 101. (n.d.). ASPEN. 

Author: Allison Abel, RD, CSP, CDN, CNSC
Editor: Riha Bhatt, MD
March 2022

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North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
The Association of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Nurses
North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Foundation
The NASPGHAN Council For Pediatric Nutrition Professionals
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