Nutrition and Intestinal Failure

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Sometimes a person cannot eat any or enough food because of intestinal failure or surgery. The stomach or bowel may not be working quite right, or a person may have had surgery to remove part or all of these organs. Under those conditions, nutrition must be supplied in a different way.

Parenteral (pah REN ter ul) nutrition is one way people receive food when they cannot eat. It is a special liquid food mixture given into the blood with a needle through a vein. The mixture contains all the protein, sugars, fat, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed. It is sometimes called total parenteral nutrition, TPN, or hyperalimentation. Patients can be taught to administer parenteral nutrition at home. Mayo's Home Parenteral Nutrition Service consists of a physician, dietitian and pharmacist team that provides the resources patients need to get the nutrition they need parenterally.

Enteral (EN ter al) nutrition is another way people can receive the food they need. Also called "tube feeding," enteral nutrition is a mixture of all the needed nutrients. It is thicker than parenteral nutrition and sometimes looks like a milk shake. It is given through a tube in the stomach or small intestine. Mayo's Home Enteral Nutrition Services help patients successfully administer enteral nutrition at home.