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How to Connect a Catheter to Parenteral Nutrition

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If you have a medical condition that limits your ability to eat, you may need parenteral nutrition. PN is a chemical solution that delivers the nutrients your body needs directly into your bloodstream, bypassing your digestive tract.

It can help you live well for a long time if you have an illness or surgery that makes it hard to get enough calories from eating alone, or if you have an immune system problem like severe allergies, autoimmune disease, or a cancer. You might also need parenteral nutrition if you are undergoing high-dose chemotherapy or radiation or bone marrow transplantation.

Your healthcare team will monitor your weight, nutrition, and reactions to your parenteral nutrition with extreme care so you can stay healthy on a long-term basis. Your team will also help you wean off parenteral nutrition when you are able to switch to tube feeding or normal oral feeding.

How to Connect a Catheter

For longer-term parenteral nutrition, you have to get a catheter placed in your vein. This is usually done after you receive heavy sedation or anesthesia. Your doctor will place a small tube outside your skin that is tunneled under your skin before it enters the vein. You then need to insert a needle into the tip of your catheter.

The tube is connected to a bag of liquid that contains the nutrients you need. This liquid can be injected through the catheter or into your stomach. The fluid is then pumped through the catheter, which moves it through your body.

Your health care team may adjust the amount of nutrient solution that you need to give you the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. They will also make sure you have the correct hydration level and that your catheter site is not blocked.

TPN is a chemical formula that can include different amounts of any of the six essential nutrients your body needs. Your healthcare team will tailor your TPN formula to fit your specific needs based on lab results.

Depending on your situation, you may be given a solution with lipid emulsions or dextrose, or a mixture of these two components and other nutrients. Your care team will determine your specific nutritional needs and then use a test to measure your body’s levels of a few key micronutrients, such as vitamin B12, copper, iron, magnesium and selenium.

You can receive a TPN solution through an intravenous (IV) catheter or by pumping your own nutrient solution from a special device called a feeding pump. You can also receive a TPN formula through an implanted port or a tunneled IV catheter.

If you are getting a parenteral solution for a long time, you may need to have blood tests and urine samples regularly. Your healthcare team will also check your skin and nails for infections, and evaluate whether the tubing, needleless access ports, catheters and other equipment are clean.

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