Pediatric Intestinal Failure

At Children's Health℠, our deep knowledge and expertise in Pediatric Intestinal Rehabilitation means we have some of Texas’ best resources and specialists to care for children with intestinal failure.

We use a combination of targeted medications and advanced minimally invasive surgical procedures to ensure your child is nourished and healthy. Our integrated team of Gastroenterologists, Pediatric Surgeons, Urologists, Nephrologists, Transplant Teams, Hematologists, Dieticians and Psychologists are here to provide the ongoing care you and your child need to thrive.

What is Pediatric Intestinal Failure?

The small intestine is the part of the digestive tract responsible for nutrient absorption. Intestinal failure occurs when the intestine does not function well enough to absorb nutrients, vitamins, and water from food. Intestinal failure can affect a child’s growth and development.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Intestinal Failure?

Symptoms of intestinal failure will depend on the underlying cause. Signs may include:

How is Pediatric Intestinal Failure diagnosed?

To diagnose intestinal failure, your child’s doctor will do a complete physical exam of your child and ask you about past medical events. Your child’s doctor may also recommend diagnostic testing, including:

What causes Pediatric Intestinal Failure?

The most common cause of intestinal failure is short bowel syndrome (short gut), which is usually the result of injury or damage to the intestine. When a child has a shortened bowel, food passes too quickly or slowly for the small intestine to do its job properly. This can cause dehydration, malnourishment and bacterial infections.

Intestinal failure may also result from:

How is Pediatric Intestinal Failure treated?

Children with intestinal failure need support getting the essential nutrients their digestive system can’t absorb. In addition to improving your child’s nutrition, treatment is targeted at helping improve intestine function. Treatment options include:


Certain medicines can help stimulate the digestive tract to move faster and more efficiently

Nutritional support

A feeding tube may help your child get the nutrition they need. However, if your child cannot eat by mouth, Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) can be used instead, delivering nutrition into the bloodstream through an IV.


Procedures to reshape or lengthen the intestine can improve the digestive system's ability to absorb nutrients properly.

Intestinal rehabilitation

Some children can wean off TPN. Intestinal rehabilitation aims to help your child’s intestine work better with diet, medicine and surgery (not including transplants). Intestinal rehabilitation can significantly reduce the need for intestinal transplants.


Some children may need transplants to get the nutrition they need. Eighty percent of patients who have had an intestinal transplant can completely transition from being fed intravenously to an oral diet and resume normal activities of daily living.

Pediatric Intestinal Failure Doctors and Providers

Children’s Pediatric Intestinal Rehabilitation specialists can help make a big difference in reducing the health problems associated with intestinal failure. Our experts work alongside your family, personalizing your child’s care and treatment to help them thrive.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is intestinal failure curable?

    Currently, there is no cure for intestinal failure. However, with ongoing treatment and a commitment to alternate forms of nutrition delivery, many children can live active and healthy lives.

  • Will my child be able to live a “normal” life?

    Children with intestinal failure need extra help getting life-sustaining nutrients, which sometimes means lifestyle changes are needed. For example, TPN may change how, where and when your child is eating. However, your family can build new rhythms enabling your child to do the same things as their peers.