• Vol. 33 No. 4, 494–498
  • 15 July 2004

Appropriateness of the Use of Parenteral Nutrition in a Local Tertiary-Care Hospital



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Introduction: Parenteral nutrition (PN) is an important supportive therapy for critically ill patients who have non-functioning gut. However, it is an expensive therapy and carries significant complications. The objective of our audit was to determine the appropriateness of prescription of PN in our hospital, based on the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) 2002 guidelines. In our hospital, the prescription of PN is managed by the Nutrition Support Team.

Materials and Methods: A retrospective review of adult patients prescribed with PN in 2001 was undertaken. Data on patient demographics, underlying diagnoses, indications, duration and routes administration were collected. The use of PN was classified as “appropriate”, “inappropriate” or “indeterminate” by the authors based on the above guidelines.

Results: 145 patients were prescribed PN in 2002. We were able to review the case notes for 137 patients. One patient received PN on 2 separate admissions. Of the 138 courses of PN (in 137 patients) reviewed, there were 88 males with the median age of 61 years (range, 16 to 91 years). 81.2% were surgical patients and of the remaining patients, 10.1% had haematological malignancies. The 2 most common indications were postoperative ileus (37.0%) and post-surgical complications (14.5%). The median duration of PN prescription was 9 days (range, 1 to 175 days). 109 (78.3%) courses of PN were classified as “appropriate”, 22 (15.9%) courses as “inappropriate” and 7 (5.8%) courses as “indeterminate”. Patients from the postoperative ileus group contributed to 10 (45.5%) patients with “inappropriate” indications; the main reason was premature initiation of PN. Of the patients considered to show “inappropriate” indications, 15 courses (68.1%) were prescribed for less than 7 days. PN was discontinued in 78% of courses due to satisfactory resumption of oral or enteral intake. The mean duration of PN use for patients with “inappropriate” indication was significantly shorter than for patients with “appropriate” indication (7.7 ± 5.3 days versus 15.8 ± 20.0 days, P = 0.002). 99.3% of PN courses were given via the central routes (with central vein cannulation or PICC). These lines were specifically inserted for PN in 60.14% of the cases.

Conclusion: Our audit showed that 15.9% of PN prescriptions were inappropriate according to the ASPEN guidelines. This was largely attributed to premature initiation of PN for postoperative ileus. We believe that these PN courses could have been avoided if these patients had been tried on naso-jejunal tube feeding, or oral nutrition with the use of prokinetics during the postoperative period.

Parenteral nutrition (PN) is an important supportive and often life-saving therapy for patients with gut failure. However, it is expensive and carries significant complications such as electrolyte disturbances, hyperglycaemia, hypertriglyceridaemia, hepatobiliary complications and line-related complications.

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