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Alternative Names Return to topSmall intestine insufficiency
Definition Return to top
Short bowel syndrome is a condition in which nutrients are not properly absorbed (malabsorption) due to severe intestinal disease or the surgical removal of a large portion of the small intestine.
Causes Return to top
When areas of the small intestine are removed by surgery, or they are not present due to a defect that occurred before birth (congenital defect), there may not be enough surface area left in the remaining bowel to absorb enough nutrients from food.
This condition is likely to develop when one-half or more of the bowel is removed during surgery. Risk factors include diseases of the small intestine that may require surgery, such as Crohn's disease. Necrotizing enterocolitis is a common cause of this condition in infants.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Treatment Return to top
Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms, and may include:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The condition may improve over time if it occurs as a result of surgery. There may be a gradual improvement in nutrient absorption.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop symptoms of short bowel syndrome, especially if you recently had bowel surgery.
References Return to top
Semrad CE, Powell DW. Approach to the patient with diarrhea and malabsorption. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 143.Update Date: 10/13/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.