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Surgery. 1992 Oct;112(4):631-7.

Total parenteral nutrition-induced changes in gut mucosal function: atrophy alone is not the issue.

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Department of Surgery, University of Rochester Medical Center, N.Y. 14642.



Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) has been implicated in gut atrophy and breakdown of barrier function leading to bacterial translocation (BT) in animals. BT during TPN, however, is not found consistently, and it has therefore been suggested that macromolecular permeability may occur independently of BT during TPN.


Male Sprague-Dawley rats were administered isocaloric standard TPN enterally, parenterally, or split equally between the two routes or allowed food ad lib. A second group of rats was administered isocaloric TPN with and without 4% lipids, and changes in gut barrier function were assessed by measuring lactulose permeability.


Rats receiving TPN both enterally and parenterally maintained histologic intestinal structure to the same degree as rats fed enterally and those allowed food. Although parenteral feeding led to significant gut atrophy and cecal bacterial overgrowth, BT was not increased. Gut permeability to lactulose, however, was increased significantly in the TPN groups. Lipid content did not affect outcome.


These results suggest that gut atrophy, BT, and permeability to macromolecules are not necessarily related. Gut-origin septic states during TPN or trauma may be caused by an increased escape of macromolecules from the gut, and BT may be an end result rather than a primary cause of such septic episodes.

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