By Ryan MacArthur |

TPNtotal parenteral nutrition – is a method of feeding that completely bypasses the gastrointestinal tract. Total parenteral nutrition supplies all of a patient’s daily nutritional requirements through an IV.

Healthcare providers administer a special formula via a central venous catheter (central line) to ensure the body gets all the nutrients it needs to recover and avoid malnutrition.

A TPN solution is typically comprised of

  • water
  • carbohydrates in the form of glucose
  • proteins in the form of amino acids
  • essential fatty acids
  • electrolytes
  • vitamins and minerals

TPN is necessary for patients who are unable to eat normally and/or cannot obtain adequate nutrition through the digestive tract.

TPN and Strokes

Often after strokes, patients can suffer from dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). This may lead to malnutrition, which can make it more difficult for a patient to recover quickly. TPN can help to support stroke patients who are unable to meet their nutritional requirements through oral intake alone.

TPN may be the only option if the patient does not have a properly functioning gastrointestinal tract or has disorders requiring total bowel rest including short bowel syndrome or severe Crohn’s disease.

Nutritional Support Prior to Surgery

TPN can also provide nutritional support for patients who are severely malnourished prior to surgery or cannot receive adequate nutrition orally. It’s important to note that healthcare providers usually only administer TPN when a patient is unable to eat by mouth, since, like any IV treatment, it is not free from potential complications including infection, sepsis, blood clots, and liver dysfunction.


Because TPN solutions are concentrated, they can cause thrombosis in the peripheral veins. As a result, a central venous catheter (central line) – a long-term IV line placed directly into one of the main blood vessels – is often used to deliver the nutrients straight into the bloodstream. TPN can also be administered into a vein through a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) or a port.

TPN can be beneficial for a wide variety of patients but must be administered appropriately. Like all treatments, it requires careful and correct administration, as well as regular and diligent monitoring, in order to be effective.

Your Recommended Reads:


Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) –  

ESPEN Guidelines on Parenteral Nutrition: Surgery –  

What to Expect – Total Parenteral Nutrition –

Focus on Therapy – What is TPN? –

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