Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition

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All people need food to live. Sometimes a person cannot eat any or enough food because of an illness. Others may have a decreased appetite, difficulties in swallowing, or some type of surgery that interferes with eating. When this occurs, and one is unable to eat, nutrition must be supplied in a different way. 

Enteral nutrition

Tube feeding, also known as enteral nutrition (EN), is a technique used to provide nourishment to individuals who have difficulty eating but their digestive tract that works normally.  It involves delivering a nutritionally balanced liquid formula directly into the digestive tract through a tube that is inserted into the stomach or small intestine. 

Some conditions that may benefit from EN:

  • Bowel obstructions in the upper digestive tract
  • Cancer or other conditions that make it difficult to swallow
  • Delayed gastric emptying (gastroparesis)
  • Injuries to the upper digestive tract
  • Neurological problems

Parenteral nutrition

Parenteral nutrition (PN) is a method of providing nutrients to the body through intravenous (IV) administration, bypassing the gastrointestinal tract. This form of nutrition is used when a person cannot adequately absorb nutrients through their digestive system or is unable to eat and drink normally due to medical conditions, surgery, or other factors. 

Some conditions that may require PN:

  • Fistula (an abnormal connection between two organs)
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Severe Crohn's disease
  • Some gastrointestinal cancers
  • Intestinal failure 
  • Complications from GI surgeries