Short Bowel Syndrome

What is it?
This condition typically follows an extensive surgery, with removal of large parts of the small intestine. Because of the removal, of so much of the gut, this can lead to problems absorbing nutrients.

What are the symptoms?

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Pale, greasy stool that are foul smelling
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Weight loss

How is it diagnosed?
Blood tests may be ordered to look for any nutrient deficiencies or other signs of malabsorption. A stool sample may be obtained to look at how much fat is present in the stool. X-rays may also be ordered.

How is it treated?
The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. A diet that is high in calories and rich in nutrients is important. If there are still low levels of certain vitamins, or minerals, these can be replaced. Medication to slow down the movement of food through the intestines may be given. If enough nutrients can still not be absorbed, feeding through a vein, directly into the blood, may be necessary for a period.

Interestingly, the intestine over time begins to adapt and transform making up for the lost intestine with villi (little finger like projections that are responsible for absorption) getting longer so more can be absorbed.

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