What is Parenteral Nutrition (PN) and why is it needed?
When you eat, food passes from the stomach into the digestive tract (also known as the bowel or gut), where it is broken down and absorbed into the body. However temporarily after surgery you may not be able to digest food in the normal way. When your digestive tract is not working, you still need nutrition. This is when you need PN (sometimes called Total Parenteral Nutrition or TPN).
PN is a sterile solution containing nutrients normally found in food – protein, carbohydrate, fat, water, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes. The solution is infused straight into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive tract.
You will need PN until the digestive tract is working properly (absorbing nutrients). Just like eating and drinking after any illness, improving your nutritional state takes time.
How does it work?
PN is given via a drip (intravenous infusion) into the bloodstream using an infusion pump. PN is a concentrated solution so it must be given into a large (central) vein. Medical and nursing staff will often use the terms ‘line’, ‘catheter’, ‘device’ or ‘port’. PN is usually infused continuously over 24 hours. The PN bag is changed daily.
During your PN therapy you will be monitored closely by a specialised Nutritional Support team of ICU doctors and Clinical Nurse Consultants. They will discuss the most suitable type of device/catheter and way of accessing this large vein when obtaining your consent. Monitoring will include regular blood tests, temperature, pulse and weight checks.