Definition

Short bowel syndrome is a complication that can occur in people who have a large part or all of their small intestine removed.

The Small Intestines

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Causes

Short bowel syndrome occurs when half or more of the small intestine is removed. It reduces the absorption of vitamins and minerals from food.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of short bowel syndrome include:

    
  • Crohn's disease , which is the most common reason for the removal of the small intestine
  • Vascular problems
  • Premature birth or very low birth weight
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Intestinal atresias
  • Gastroschesis
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of short bowel syndrome may include:

        
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Malnourishment
  • Poor growth
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Food sensitivities
  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Blood tests may also be performed to check for nutritional and absorption problems.

    Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

    Nutrition

    If you are malnourished, your doctor may give you food, fluid, and electrolytes through an IV. You will be advised to gradually increase your caloric intake and avoid certain foods. Initially, your diet will be high-protein, low-fat, and lactose-free.

    Medications

    In addition to changing your diet, you may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements. Antidiarrheal medications and medications that slow the contraction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles can also slow your digestion so you can absorb more nutrients. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe an H2 antagonist, a proton pump inhibitor, cholestyramine, and/or octreotide.

    Surgery

    Transplantation of small bowel is an option for patients who cannot maintain their nutritional status with other treatments.

    Prevention

    There is no known way to prevent short bowel syndrome.