All About Short Bowel Syndrome

Short bowel syndrome is more common in adults than in children. This condition causes lifelong limitations, but it can get better.
All about short bowel syndrome

Short bowel syndrome is a complex condition characterized by physical or functional loss of a segment of the intestinal surface. The main causes are congenital disorders and intestinal infarction or mesenteric ischemia.

This condition makes it very difficult to stay healthy. Short bowel syndrome makes it difficult to absorb nutrients, which creates problems. Despite this, one can improve the absorption through a process of functional and structural adaptation of the intestine.

However, the prognosis for short bowel syndrome depends on the length and condition of the organ. In addition, it depends on the cause of the problem and other factors. Let’s take a closer look at it.

What is short bowel syndrome?

Short bowel syndrome is a condition that occurs when part of the small intestine is lost. A child may be born without this part, or one can e.g. have had it removed by surgery. In addition, the area may have stopped working. This causes severe metabolic and nutritional problems.

It’s not all lost parts of the small intestine, leading to short bowel syndrome. Specialists can only confirm it if the length of the remaining part of the intestine can not absorb properly.

In general, this condition occurs artificially when there is one of the following two operations:

  • Terminal jejunostomy: Part of the jejunum, ileum and colon are missing.
  • Jejuno-colic anastomosis: The ileum and ileocecal valve are missing, so the jejunum and colon are connected.

A person with this condition needs macronutrients and electrolyte supplements to stay healthy. For children, it is important for them to grow. Sometimes they need parenteral nutrition or through a blood vessel so they do not become malnourished.

Child takes care of stomach

Symptoms and causes

According to the available data, the main underlying cause of short bowel syndrome is mesenteric ischemia or intestinal infarction in 30% of cases. Then there is tumor obstruction for 20% and Crohn’s disease for 20%. As the latter, intestinal infection and chronic pseudoobstruction and other disorders are less common causes.

On the other hand , the main causes in children are congenital and perinatal problems.

Necrotizing enterocolitis, which is a severe inflammation of the newborn’s colon, is more common in premature babies or in newborns who spend more time in the neonatal ward.

As we mentioned earlier, lacking a part of the gut makes it harder to absorb nutrients. This causes a number of symptoms, such as:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Pale, greasy stools.
  • Very smelly stool.
  • Weight loss.
  • Dehydration.
  • Fatigue.

To determine if this condition is present, the doctor will usually perform laboratory tests. This includes, for example, blood chemistry tests, complete blood counts, blood vitamin levels and stool fat samples. In addition, they can take an X-ray of the small intestine.

Woman holding illustration of bowel

The main goals of treatment are to ensure that the body gets the nutrients it needs and to relieve the symptoms. To do this, the specialists take the following steps:

  • Nutrition therapy involves following a special diet that includes supplements that suit the patient. In some cases, it may be necessary to use an intravenous tube or a tube to obtain food.
  • Medication. In these cases, it is necessary to give medicine. Some drugs help control diarrhea and improve bowel absorption.
  • Surgery. Sometimes it is necessary to perform an operation to lengthen the bowel, which is called autologous bowel reconstruction. In other cases, surgery is necessary to prevent nutrients from passing through the intestine. In addition, you may even need a small bowel transplant.

The short intestine develops differently

This condition improves with treatment, especially after surgery. In any case, follow-ups with healthcare professionals are indispensable for the rest of the patient’s life.

Complications can also occur. Eg. bacteria that spread in the small intestine, malnutrition or problems in the nervous system due to vitamin B12 deficiency. In conclusion, it is not easy to deal with and only gastroenterological specialists are trained to deal with it.

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