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Pediatric Short Bowel Syndrome (Short Gut)


What is short bowel syndrome?

Short bowel syndrome (short gut) is a condition in which nutrients are not properly absorbed because a large portion of the small intestine is missing. It is most often due to a birth defect or due to surgical removal of part of the bowel. Children with short bowel syndrome cannot get enough water, vitamins, and other nutrients from food to thrive. 

How do I know if my child has short bowel syndrome?

If your child has symptoms of short bowel syndrome, you should have him evaluated by a physician. Symptoms may include diarrhea, fatty stools, abdominal cramping and bloating, weight loss and fatigue.

What causes short bowel syndrome?

In newborns

In older children

What are the symptoms of short bowel syndrome?

How is short bowel syndrome diagnosed?

A series of tests can help doctors diagnose short bowel syndrome. Children will have their medical history rechecked and get another physical exam. Your child’s doctor may also use a combination of the following tests:

  • Blood tests, which determine nutrient levels absorbed in the bloodstream
  • Imaging to determine the length of bowel 
  • Stool tests to aid in determining bowel function 

Our intestinal rehab specialists will determine your child’s treatment plan through medical, surgical, and nutritional evaluations.

How is short bowel syndrome treated?

Treatment for short bowel syndrome depends on how much of the bowel is missing. Your child’s doctor may recommend changes to his dietary regimen, such as:

Additional support may include:

  • Feeding therapy
  • Surgical procedures to enhance bowel absorption

In some cases, medications may be used to treat diarrhea and to slow down the movement of the intestine so it will have more time to absorb water and nutrients.

What types of surgery can lead to short bowel syndrome?

In newborns, short bowel syndrome may occur after surgery to treat necrotizing enterocolitis, congenital defects of the bowel or meconium ileus. In older children, short bowel syndrome may occur after surgery to treat Crohn’s disease, cancer, bowel injury or intussusception.


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