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Twenty patients who had undergone uncomplicated surgery of moderate severity were randomly allocated to two groups (both n = 10) who were fed using a peripheral vein for up to six days. Group I received, each day, a nutrient solution providing 10 grams of nitrogen as Perifusin (E Merck Ltd) and 1400 calories as dextrose and Intralipid (Kabivitrum Ltd) with an osmolality of 490 mosmol/kg. Group II received only 15 grams of nitrogen per day as Perifusin with an osmolality of 376 mosmol/kg. The mean (+/- s.e. mean) nitrogen balance over the study was similar in both groups, in Group I being -1.23 +/- 0.89, and in Group II being -1.05 +/- 1.08 g (P greater than 0.05 Mann-Whitney U test). The nutrient mixture given to Group I resulted in elevated levels of serum 3-hydroxybutyrate and lower levels of serum non-esterified fatty acids. These data suggest that lipolysis and ketogenesis were suppressed. There was no significant difference in serum lactate levels in either group. Venous thrombophlebitis at the infusion site was assessed daily using Maddox's criteria, with a minimal degree of inflammation occurring in either group. This preliminary study suggests that a total parenteral feeding regimen may be designed for peripheral vein infusion. Further studies are indicated.