Definition of Short bowel syndrome

Reviewed on 9/20/2022

Short bowel syndrome: A condition due to loss of half or more of the 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

Treatment options include

  • changes in diet,
  • intravenous feeding,
  • vitamin and mineral supplements, and
  • medicine to relieve symptoms.

Also called small intestine insufficiency.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors