Did you know fentanyl patches can be administered parenterally?

Of course the contents of any patch should only be applied topically, but common usage has narrowed the interpretation of parenteral, by many, to mean intravenous or at least injectable. This interpretation may have developed from the two routes of administration used for feeding patients i.e. enteral and parenteral feeding.

The term is based on the Greek word enteros, meaning “intestine”, therefore “enteral” denotes anything administered via the gastrointestinal tract, including naso-gastric feeding and any orally administered medication. Interestingly this meaning also extends to the extremities of the gastrointestinal tract such as the absorption of sub-lingual tablets and rectal preparations via the local mucosa.

Parenteral incorporates para, another Greek word meaning “besides”, as in parallel. In fact, parenteral signifies administration by any route other than via the gastrointestinal tract, thus application of a topical patch is parenteral, as is administration by injection.

Beware of computers with spell check, as it is not unusual to see “parental administration”, which really only applies in a paediatric ward.

Another term that causes confusion is “complementary”, which often appears as “complimentary”. Click here to read more.