Your Guide to Parenteral Nutrition (PN)

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY-614/2023
  • Departments: Gastroenterology, Nutrition Support
  • Last Updated: 13 June 2023


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about your treatment.  Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet.  It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and the healthcare team but may act as a starting point for discussion.   If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.

What is parenteral nutrition?

Parenteral Nutrition (PN) is a method of feeding. It is a fluid that gives you calories in the form of carbohydrates, proteins and fats as well as containing vitamins and minerals needed to help meet your nutritional needs.  The bag of PN is given to you, intravenously (via your veins), usually through a line in either your arm or neck.

Why do I need PN?

You may need PN because your gut is not working properly, you are not absorbing enough nutrition from there or because it has been recommended not to use your gut.    It may be used as your only form of nutrition or alongside food or tube feeding.  It may be given for a short time until you improve and occasionally, may be needed longer term.  Your doctors will speak with you regarding this.

Can there be any complications or risks?

As with any treatment, there can sometimes be problems as a consequence of receiving it.  The main complications and risks of PN are:

  • Raised blood glucose
  • Fluid overload
  • Problems with your liver
  • Problems with blood chemistry
  • Line infection
  • Line blockage
  • Swelling around the cannula in your arm

The Nutrition Team will help in ensuring that these problems do not develop, or if they do, that they are treated properly.

How do I prepare for parenteral nutrition?

Please read the information leaflet.  Share the information it contains with your partner and family (if you wish) so that they are aware you are receiving PN.  There may be information they need to know, especially if they are taking care of you during this treatment.

For this treatment you will either need a cannula inserted into your hand or arm, or a line which will be inserted in theatre.  You may need to have some vitamins and / or correction of blood chemistry before PN is started, this will be explained to you.

What will happen?

You will be assessed by the Nutrition Team which includes:

  • Consultants
  • Nutrition Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Dietitians

They will work with your medical team to arrange the most appropriate treatment for you.

What happens afterwards?

The Nutrition Team will review your progress regularly and discuss any changes to your treatment with you.

The following will be monitored:

  • Blood tests, often daily
  • Blood glucose
  • Temperature
  • Weight
  • Fluid intake and output
  • Bowel habits

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact the Nutrition Team (01482) 875875 and ask for Bleep 771 Castle Hill Hospital or Bleep 640 Hull Royal Infirmary

This leaflet was produced by Nutrition Team, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and will be reviewed in June 2025.

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

QR code to open leaflet