Treatment at Mayo Clinic

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) provides liquid nutrients through a needle injected into a vein. It is used if your small bowel can't absorb nutrients naturally. TPN may supplement home enteral nutrition or may be used exclusively.

Intravenous feeding is used most commonly for people with cancer, Crohn's disease, short bowel syndrome and conditions resulting from reduced blood flow to the bowel (ischemic bowel disease).

At Mayo Clinic, doctors with special training in nutrition work with you to determine the type of TPN that's best for you. Specially trained nurses and dietitians show you and your caregivers how to prepare, administer and monitor TPN at home. Your feeding cycle is usually adjusted so that TPN occurs at night, freeing you from the infusion pump during the day. The goal is for you to become self-confident and independent in using TPN.

You will have follow-up exams to assess your intravenous nutrition plan. Mayo dietitians and nurses are also available to help with questions or concerns about TPN.

Mayo research suggests that under the careful supervision of care providers, some people with short bowel syndrome may be weaned off TPN. Some people with Crohn's disease, radiation enteritis and cancer may be partially weaned off TPN.

Catheter types

Mayo offers two options for delivering TPN:

  • Tunneled catheter has a segment of tube outside the skin
  • Implanted catheter is inserted completely beneath the skin

At Mayo, both types of catheter are usually inserted into a large vein leading to the heart. The procedure is done under heavy sedation or anesthesia in the operating room or radiology suite.

TPN through this large vein can deliver nutrients quickly and lower the risk of catheter infection.


Catheter infection is the most common complication of TPN. Other complications include liver and bone disease, and blood clots. Your Mayo treatment team will monitor your TPN formula and procedures to help avoid or treat these complications.

Oct. 13, 2011