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Definition of Short bowel syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Short bowel syndrome: A condition due to loss of half or more of their small intestine removed because of surgical removal or disease of the small intestine. Common reasons for removing part of the small intestine include surgery for Crohn's disease; necrotizing enterocolitis, an infectious inflammatory disease of premature newborns; intestinal atresia, failure of development of part of the intestine; and volvulus, which occurs when the bowel gets twisted and the blood supply is impaired.

Diarrhea is the main symptom of short bowel syndrome. Other symptoms include floating stools and foul-smelling stools, intestinal cramping, bloating, and heartburn. Many people with short bowel syndrome are malnourished because their remaining small intestine is unable to absorb enough water, vitamins, and other nutrients from food. They may also become dehydrated, which can be life threatening. Problems associated with dehydration and malnutrition include weight loss, weakness, fatigue, anemia, and bacterial infections.

Treatment options include changes in diet, intravenous feeding, vitamin and mineral supplements, and medicine to relieve symptoms. Also called small intestine insufficiency.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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