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Total Parental Nutrition (TPN) - Having A Central Line and What To Expect

Updated on December 26, 2017

What Is TPN (Total Parental Nutrition)

(TPN) Total Parenteral Nutrition (intravenous feeding) is a method of getting nutrition into the body through the veins. Some patients need to get only certain types of nutrients intravenously. TPN may include a combination of sugar and carbohydrates, proteins , lipids (fat), electrolytes, and trace elements. Your TPN liquid may contain all or some of these substances, depending on your condition and your nutritional needs.

TPN In Backpack For Mobility

Why Would You Need TPN?

TPN is used when all or part of a person's digestive system does not work. A person may need TPN because of a gastrointestinal disorder that severely limits the ability of their digestion. A person may not be able to swallow food, move the food through the digestive system, or absorb nutrients from the food that they do eat.

Some children and adults who are on TPN may have short bowel syndrome commonly known as short gut syndrome. Short gut syndrome is a condition in which most of the small intestine is either missing or doesn't work. The small intestine is very important. It helps you absorb nutrients from the food you eat. Other reasons that a child may need total parenteral nutrition (TPN) are intestinal diseases like microvillus inclusion disease or trauma or injury to the intestines. Many children and adults who are on the waiting list for an intestinal transplant are on TPN.

What Happens First When They Want To Give You TPN?

If you have to have TPN, the first thing they will do is a lot blood work, naturally. After they get all your blood work done, they will set up with either a picc line, a central line or a feeding tube is the norm. I have a central line in my chest with a hickman catheter. Inserting the line is done under anesthesia or a local and is fairly easy.

Adjusting TPN And Hospital Stay

I was in the hospital for 7 days while they got the right "cocktail" going for me to go home on. I'm not going to lie, when they send you home, you are basically on your own. I really had a hard time with that when I walked in the door. I was afraid I wouldn't know what to do or how to hook myself up. It's kind of a frightening experience at first because when you are in the hospital, they tell you of all the bad things and precautions. Now, these can happen, yes..If you do what they tell you do and be extra sanitary, then you have done all you can.

A nurse may or may not come to your home weekly. I have a nurse that comes every week to get blood work, check my vitals, change my bandage and check my line. Some areas have you drive to the nurse or doctor's office to get that done, I'm really not sure how other areas work. Also, don't panic too much, the nurse will also come out daily until you learn how to hook yourself up on your own. I took 3 or 4 days and then was doing it (nervously) but I did it.

TPN Central Line Hickman Catheter Picture

This is a picture of a HICKMAN catheter placed via a central line for use with TPN
This is a picture of a HICKMAN catheter placed via a central line for use with TPN | Source

Keeping A Clean And Sterile Central Line

Anytime you are messing with your central line, it is an absolute MUST that you are clean. I have sanitizer all over the house and wash with soap and water (scrub) and use the sanitizer on top of it. Always use alcohol swabs before using any flushes or messing with the end of the line and scrub for 15 seconds with the alcohol. It will help keep infection out; but as I'm sure you were told, or if you haven't started TPN yet, you will be told that it's almost inevitable, that someday, you will get an infection. Do your best and don't take light of the situation as it can be serious and fatal if you get an infection in your line. An infected central line can lead to sepsis and other problems. Keep your line flushed daily to keep blood clots from forming. All this information should really should come from your Doctor, I am just telling you my experience and what I was told. Don't do what I am telling you do PLEASE!

Central Line Infection

This is an infected central line. If this happens, they will pull out the infected line and give antibiotics. They will then replace another line about a week later (depending on your infectious disease Dr.)
This is an infected central line. If this happens, they will pull out the infected line and give antibiotics. They will then replace another line about a week later (depending on your infectious disease Dr.) | Source

Central Line Infection

You do have to worry about line infection or possible clotting in the line. Clotting can be helped for flushing your line a couple times a day (that is what I was told, please check with your physician for their recommendations). Each doctor does things differently as far as what to put in your line daily to help infection and help prevent clotting. It depends on what type of system you are using, ie; picc line, chest catheter (central line) etc. Some doctors will have you place heparin into your line daily for clotting and others won't. I do not use heparin in my line as it's not my physicians choice for my type of line. To help prevent infection, I place 3 mls of ethanol lock into my line and let it sit in there for a minimum of 3 hours.

Sanitize and Clean Prior

I Have The TPN, Now What Happens When I Go To Bed

You learned how to hook up your TPN and they taught you how to place the TPN bag in your backpack so you can be mobile and walk around the house or go somewhere if you wish. It's time for bed and you're scared to death to go to sleep with this thing hooked up and a line hanging down which you need to really be careful as I tripped on it a few times. Not good! I could have pulled the line right out of my chest!

It's difficult to maneuver when you are getting ready for bed. I won't lie..I used to toss and turn and like to sleep on one side or my stomach. That's not happening any longer. I have learned to not move because I don't want to twist my line up. Make sure your line is strapped in securely inside of your backpack but not too tightly. If it gets tight, it will pull on the chest and you don't want that. You will find what works best for you, but I don't sleep well at night because of it. Others may have a trick I don't know about and if you do, I more than welcome the suggestion. Make sure to mention it in the comments section below.

I hope I gave you some information that can help you out some, there is so much information you need to know, that I cannot fit it all on one page, and frankly, it's information you need to get from your physician. I can tell you that I gained 30 lbs which is good because I was down to nothing. I couldn't even walk, now I have strength to walk and have some sort of a life. I'm not great by no means because of other issues, but at least I'm alive which I wouldn't have been if it wasn't for TPN. With that, maybe that's enough information for you to know that it may ease your mind some that you may get some of your life back if you are failing at nutrition.

Long Term TPN Patients

Learning you are going on TPN for a lengthy period of time, or in my case, for life, seems a bit scary at first. I had no idea what to expect except that I would no longer be able to consume food. Not everyone gets to suffer that way even with a TPN. I have short gut syndrome (short bowel) and because of blockages, I cannot eat food. A lot of people with TPN still get to eat regular food, they just don't get the nutrients because mostly of short bowel, so therefore; they have to get TPN. I would rather be able to eat and get TPN, but that's the way the cookie crumbled for me.

How Long Do You Hook Up To The TPN?

I hook up every night in the evening for 12 hours daily. Some people are fortunate enough to only have to hook up 3 days a week, and some are more unfortunate and have to be hooked up to the TPN 24 hours a day. It depends on your condition and how you are doing with what they start you off with.

Great Video On How To Set Up Your TPN


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