When food and drink cannot be eaten, digested or excreted via the gastrointestinal tract, it might become necessary to use parenteral nutrition to ensure that a patient receives the energy and nutrients he or she needs to prevent starvation or malnutrition. Parenteral nutrition is administered via a catheter and bypasses the gastrointestinal tract entirely by supplying nutrients in a form that does not require digestion. Nutrition can be provided for infants and children as well as adults, but babies and children require very close monitoring to ensure that they receive an optimal level of nutrition.
There are two categories of parenteral nutrition: partial and total. Partial parenteral feeding generally is for people who can eat small amounts of food but are not able to eat enough food to provide all of the nutrition and energy they need. People who need partial parenteral feeding are fitted with a peripheral intravenous catheter, which is a catheter that is inserted into a peripheral location on their body, such as a hand or arm. Most people who need this type of intravenous feeding are given a solution containing glucose and emulsified fats to supplement the food they eat.
When a person is unable to eat any food, he or she might need total parenteral nutrition. This type of intravenous feeding provides protein, sugars, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes to ensure that the person can maintain proper electrolyte and fluid balance as well as nutrient and energy requirements. High-protein nutrition is given to ensure that the person’s body does not begin breaking down muscle for energy. This method is used to provide nutrition for people with gastrointestinal diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, or other problems that prevent them from eating and drinking, such as such as bowel obstruction.
Parenteral feeding frequently is administered in a hospital. Often, someone who needs intravenous feeding can administer their own nutrition at home after a catheter has been properly inserted. The home use of parenteral feeding methods typically is provided for people who need to use this feeding method for a long period of time.
People who use parenteral nutrition have a risk of bacterial infection or fungal infection at the site of the catheter insertion. There is a low risk of liver failure if a person is given parenteral feeding solutions with excess glucose or an incorrect ratio of different fatty acids. When someone is given total parenteral feeding, long-term disuse of the gastrointestinal tract can lead to inflammation of the gallbladder.