Is there a role for TPN in terminally ill patients with bowel obstruction?

Nutrition. 2004 Sep;20(9):760-3. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2004.05.010.


Objective: There is controversy regarding the use of total parenteral nutrition (TPN) in individuals with metastatic malignancies. The objective of this study was to determine whether a subgroup of patients with intestinal obstruction would benefit from support with TPN.

Methods: A retrospective review of patients considered for home TPN by a regionalized home TPN program was conducted

Results: Over a 6-y period, nine patients with primary gastrointestinal malignancy and metastatic intestinal obstruction were identified. There was a variable survival rate of 27 to 433 d. Survival rate longer than 60 d was noted in six of nine patients. Most patients had no direct TPN-related complications, but one patient had significant morbidity related to venous thrombosis and line sepsis. There were no nutritional predictors of prolonged survival rate with TPN. TPN was continued until death in six of nine patients.

Conclusion: Patients with small bowel obstruction and metastatic malignancy may benefit from TPN as demonstrated by prolonged survival rate longer than 60 d. There are no clear predictors of who will benefit from TPN, and each case should be considered individually, with the potential risks and benefits discussed with the family and primary caregivers. Future studies should address the effect of TPN on quality of life of the patient and their caregivers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Critical Care / methods
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / secondary
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / mortality
  • Intestinal Obstruction / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status / physiology
  • Parenteral Nutrition, Total / adverse effects
  • Parenteral Nutrition, Total / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome