Health Information

Condition Detail

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:

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.

RESOURCES

American Gastroenterological Association http://www.gastro.org

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology http://www.cag-acg.org

Canadian Digestive Health Foundation http://www.cdhf.ca

References

Short bowel syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated April 24, 2013. Accessed May 23, 2013.

Short bowel syndrome. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/shortbowel/index.htm . Updated April 30, 2012. Accessed May 23, 2013.

Revision Information