What is PN & IF

What is PN?

Parenteral Nutrition (PN) is food in a liquid form which is pumped into the body via a tube (catheter) in a major vein close to the heart.  PN is needed when there is a problem with the digestive system.  

This liquid food contains all the essential nutrients our bodies need to live, but because it’s pumped directly into the bloodstream, it must be kept sterile and all set-up connections and procedures must be kept sterile (aseptic).  This is to minimise infection risk from bacteria entering the bloodstream (sepsis).  

What is IF & HPN?

Sometimes, due to catastrophic ongoing problems with the digestive system (Intestinal Failure), PN is needed long term or even permanently.  After training to manage their PN themselves (or by their parents/carers), patients can leave hospital to continue their therapy at home. When PN is done at home – usually overnight – it is called Home Parenteral Nutrition (HPN).

HPN is very complex and there are serious risks and possible complications, but it allows approximately 280 adults and children across Australia and New Zealand to live at home and be involved in life.

There are 3 main possible life-threatening complications of long term PN: liver failure, impending loss of venous (vein) access, and recurrent central line sepsis.  ‘Down under’, some have lived on HPN for 20+ years.  Overseas, a small number have lived for over 30, 40 and even 50 years on HPN, not without complications.

The causes of IF encompass a wide range of congenital problems and digestive diseases, a number of these diseases being quite rare.  They include: Gastroparesis, Chronic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction, Hirschsprungs Disease, Hollow Viscous Myopathy, Malrotation Volvulus, Digestive Tract Paralysis, Gastrointestinal Sarcoidosis, Short Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, radiation enteritis, necrotizing enterocolitis, adult intestinal cancers (including ovarian cancer) and surgical misadventures. Many of those on HPN also have small or large bowel stomas.