The Importance of IV Nutrition

Intravenous (or IV) nutrition is an essential tool that doctors use when their patients are unable to absorb significant nutrition by eating or via other methods. An IV line is inserted into the patient, typically in the arm, and the IV nutrition is pumped into the patient over a period of anywhere between 10 and 16 hours a day. During this time period, the patient is typically given a solution of electrolytes, glucose, amino acids, and lipids suspended in water with lecithin. Any additional vitamins, minerals, and trace elements the patient needs will either be added to the IV solution or are given to the patient separately.

IV nutrition is important for patients whose gastrointestinal tracts are not working properly. Typically, this is caused by either a block or a fistula (leak), but it can also occur when a patient’s gastrointestinal tract is unable or less able to absorb the nutrients the patient needs. There are two main groups of patients for whom IV nutrition is typically prescribed: those with gastrointestinal disorders and those with malnutrition issues. It is typically not given to comatose or vegetative patients as severe complications can occur if treatment continues over a period of several weeks.

For patients with gastrointestinal disorders, IV nutrition is often the only way they can achieve complete bowel rest. Complete bowel rest allows the bowels time to heal without being agitated by stool passing, and it is highly beneficial for patients with severe Crohns’ disease, ulcerative colitis, prolonged diarrhea, high-output fistula, and other disorders.

For patients with malnutrition issues, IV nutrition is generally used to supplement food intake as long as it is possible for the patient to process food. It is especially useful if the patient seems to be unable to physically process the necessary calories or is particularly deficient in a particular nutrient.