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Short Bowel Syndrome

What is short bowel syndrome?

Short bowel syndrome is a group of problems related to poor absorption of nutrients. It is sometimes known as short gut syndrome (or short gut), or intestinal failure. It typically occurs in people who have had half or more of their small intestine removed. Not enough bowel is left to absorb needed nutrition and fluid.

The small intestine and the large intestine, also called the colon, make up the bowel. The small intestine is where most digestion of food and absorption of nutrients occur. People with short bowel syndrome cannot absorb enough water, vitamins, and other nutrients from food to sustain life.

Learn about the digestive system and how it works.

What causes short bowel syndrome?

The main cause of short bowel syndrome is surgical removal of half or more of the small intestine to treat intestinal diseases, injuries, or defects present at birth. Short bowel syndrome can also be caused by disease or injury that prevents the small intestine from functioning as it should despite a normal length.

Learn more about the causes of SBS.

What are the signs and symptoms of short bowel syndrome?

Diarrhea is the main symptom of short bowel syndrome. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and weight loss. Other symptoms may include cramping, bloating, heartburn, weakness, and fatigue.

Specific nutrient deficiencies may occur depending on what sections of the small intestine were removed or are not functioning properly.

People with short bowel syndrome are also at risk for developing food sensitivities.

Learn more about the symptoms of SBS.

How is short bowel syndrome treated?

The main treatment for short bowel syndrome is nutritional support. Treatment may involve use of oral rehydration solutions, parenteral nutrition, enteral nutrition, and medications.

Long-term treatment and recovery depend in part on what sections of the small intestine were removed, how much remains, and how well the remaining small intestine adapts over time.

Intestinal transplantation may be an option for some patients for whom other treatments have failed and who have complications from long-term parenteral nutrition. These complications include blood infections, blood clots, and liver failure, which can lead to the need for liver transplantation.

Learn more about treatment options for SBS.

What is intestinal adaptation?

After removal of a large portion of the small intestine, the remaining small intestine goes through a process of adaptation that increases its ability to absorb nutrients. The inner lining grows, increasing its absorptive surface area. Intestinal adaptation can take up to 2 years to occur. Researchers are studying intestinal adaptation and ways to help the remaining small intestine adapt more quickly and function better.

Points to Remember

  • Short bowel syndrome is a group of problems related to poor absorption of nutrients that typically occurs in people who have had half or more of their small intestine removed.

  • People with short bowel syndrome cannot absorb enough water, vitamins, and other nutrients from food to sustain life.

  • Diarrhea is the main symptom of short bowel syndrome and can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and weight loss.

  • Treatment may involve use of oral rehydration solutions, parenteral nutrition, enteral nutrition, and medications. Having an intestinal transplant may be an option for some patients.

  • Researchers are studying ways to help the small intestine that remains after surgery adapt and function better.

 

 

Last modified on January 29, 2014 at 02:20:22 PM