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