Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Questions and Answers: Artificial Nutrition and Hydration and End of Life Decision Making

What is artificial nutrition and hydration?

Artificial nutrition and hydration is a form of life-sustaining treatment. It is a chemically balanced mix of nutrients and fluids, provided by placing a tube directly into the stomach, the intestine or a vein.

When is it used?

Artificial nutrition and hydration is given to a person who for some reason cannot eat or drink enough to sustain life or health. Without nutrition and fluids a person will eventually die. Artificial nutrition and hydration is a medical treatment that allows healthcare providers to bypass whatever may be preventing a person from eating or drinking. It may be used for a variety of conditions.

Short-term artificial nutrition and hydration often is given to patients recovering from surgery, greatly improving the healing process. It may also be given to people with increased nutritional requirements, such as burn victims, or to someone who cannot swallow because of an obstructing tumor.

A highly sophisticated form of artificial nutrition and hydration (total parenteral nutrition, or TPN) can be given indefinitely. For example, TPN can be given to patients with serious intestinal disorders that impair their ability to digest food, enabling them to live fairly normal lives. However, long-term artificial nutrition and hydration also is commonly given to people with irreversible neurological disorders, such as advanced Alzheimer's disease or severe stroke, although it cannot reverse the condition or change the course of the disease itself.

How is it given?

Artificial nutrition and hydration may be given in several ways. Usually it is provided through a flexible tube inserted through the nasal passage into the stomach (nasogastric or NG tube), through the wall of the abdomen into the stomach (gastrostomy, G tube or PEG) or into the intestine (jejunostomy). Insertion through the wall of the abdomen requires a minor surgical procedure. TPN requires the surgical insertion of a special catheter or port, usually into a vein below the collar bone. Fluid with limited amounts of nutrients (or fluids alone) can be supplied directly into a vein in the arm through an intravenous (IV) line. Nutrition and hydration may be supplied temporarily, until the person recovers the ability to eat and drink, or indefinitely. If artificial nutrition is likely to be given for a long time or permanently, a surgically implanted tube is generally more comfortable for the patient and has fewer side effects.

WebMD Medical Reference from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
Remember your finger
Are You Getting More Forgetful?
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.