If sick or premature infants can’t properly absorb nutrients by mouth for an extended period it may be dangerous. The UCSF Children’s Hospital
recommends that while it is always preferable for nutrition to be given via the GI tract, if this is not possible, then TPN may be started. Sick or premature newborns often have an increased need for nutrients. This may be due to factors such as:
- stunted kidney growth that prevents normal functioning
- inadequate time in the womb, which prevents the infant from receiving their full supply of necessary nutrients for healthy growth and development.
According to the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN)
, TPN can help save the lives of underweight or sick infants who are unable to process food taken by mouth or given by tube feedings to the GI tract. TPN offers a more effective way for these babies to meet their nutritional needs than through water-based IV feedings. This is because TPN provides more than just the sugars and salts available from IVs. A study in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings
found that infants might benefit from TPN when oral feeding is impossible. These include premature infants with certain medical conditions and other infants with diarrhea and surgical problems. One review of 20 patients found that infants received enough calories to regain weight and continue to grow. A report in the medical journal Archives of Disease in Childhood
studied the effectiveness of TPN versus milk in 34 infants who had very low birth weights. Researchers found that the TPN group had higher daily intakes of both protein and carbohydrates compared to the group fed with milk. The study concluded that TPN, when properly managed, could be an effective treatment for infants with very low birth weights. However, these studies were done in the early years of TPN use. Further experience has shown that TPN has a high risk of complications and is not routinely recommended for low birth weight infants who can receive nutrition via the GI tract.