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Cancer Health Center

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Nutrition in Cancer Care (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - Types of Nutrition Care


Enteral nutrition is sometimes used when the patient is able to eat small amounts by mouth, but cannot eat enough for health. Nutrients given through a tube feeding add the calories and nutrients needed for health.

Enteral nutrition may continue after the patient leaves the hospital.

If enteral nutrition is to be part of the patient's care after leaving the hospital, the patient and caregiver will be trained to do the nutrition support care at home.

Parenteral Nutrition

Parenteral nutrition carries nutrients directly into the blood stream.

Parenteral nutrition is used when the patient cannot take food by mouth or by enteral feeding. Parenteral feeding does not use the stomach or intestines to digest food. Nutrients are given to the patient directly into the blood, through a catheter (thin tube) inserted into a vein. These nutrients include proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Parenteral nutrition is used only in patients who need nutrition support for five days or more.

The catheter may be placed into a vein in the chest or in the arm.

A central venous catheter is placed beneath the skin and into a large vein in the upper chest. The catheter is put in place by a surgeon. This type of catheter is used for long-term parenteral feeding.

A peripheral venous catheter is placed into a vein in the arm. A peripheral venous catheter is put in place by trained medical staff. This type of catheter is usually used for short-term parenteral feeding.

The patient is checked often for infection or bleeding at the place where the catheter enters the body.

Parenteral nutrition support may continue after the patient leaves the hospital.

If parenteral nutrition is to be part of the patient's care after leaving the hospital, the patient and caregiver will be trained to do the nutrition support care at home.

Ending parenteral nutrition support must be done under medical supervision.

Going off parenteral nutrition support needs to be done slowly and is supervised by a medical team. The parenteral feedings are decreased by small amounts over time until they can be stopped, or as the patient is changed over to enteral or oral feeding.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: May 28, 2015
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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