Meeting of the body’s nutritional needs through means other than eating, sometimes called artificial feeding. The word parenteral means “around the intestine.” Parenteral nutrition becomes a consideration when the person with Parkinson’s is not able to obtain adequate nourishment by eating. This may be the result of swallowing difficulties (dysphagia), significant cognitive impairment, neuromuscular impairments that anti-parkinson’s medications cannot control, or factors related to other health problems.
Parenteral nutrition involves infusing specially prepared and formulated nutrient-dense intravenous (IV) solutions through a catheter inserted into a large vein, going directly into the bloodstream, and bypassing the digestive system. This method, called central line infusion, can sustain a person’s nutritional needs for quite a long time, but it is typically only utilized as a short-term solution when the gastrointestinal tract is temporarily unavailable (usually from abdominal surgery or disease). Risks of its use include infection and blood clots (thromboembolisms), infection, and inflammation of the pancreas.
Though not parenteral, enteral feeding via a feeding tube through which liquid supplements are channeled directly to the stomach or intestine often is a better choice for short-term and long-term nutrition in patients with an intact digestive system but who cannot be safely fed by mouth.
The decision about whether to implement enteral or parenteral nutrition is often a struggle for family members. Ideally the person with Parkinson’s and family members discuss this option well before it is necessary to consider it and formalize preferences through advance directives. Many people are loath simply to prolong living when the resulting quality of life is questionable or undesirable, given that the Parkinson’s will continue to progress.