Overview

Short bowel syndrome is a condition in which your body is unable to absorb enough nutrients from the foods you eat because you don't have enough small intestine.

The small intestine is where the majority of the nutrients you eat are absorbed into your body during digestion.

Short bowel syndrome can occur when:

  • Portions of the small intestine have been surgically removed. Conditions that may require surgical removal of large portions of the small intestine include Crohn's disease, cancer, traumatic injuries and blood clots in the arteries that provide blood to the intestines.
  • Portions of the small intestine are missing or damaged at birth. Babies may be born with a short small intestine or with a damaged small intestine that must be surgically removed.

Short bowel syndrome treatment typically involves special diets and nutritional supplements and may require nutrition through a vein (parenteral nutrition) to prevent malnutrition.

Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of short bowel syndrome may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Greasy, foul-smelling stools
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Swelling (edema) in the lower extremities

Causes

Causes of short bowel syndrome include having parts of your small intestine removed during surgery, or being born with some of the small intestine missing or damaged. Conditions that may require surgical removal of portions of the small intestine include Crohn's disease, cancer, injuries and blood clots.

Short bowel syndrome care at Mayo Clinic

Dec. 31, 2019
  1. Ferri FF. Short bowel syndrome. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2020. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 18, 2019.
  2. Kliegman RM, et al. Chronic diarrhea. In: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 18, 2019.
  3. Short bowel syndrome. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/short-bowel-syndrome. Accessed Nov. 18, 2019.
  4. Short bowel syndrome. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. https://www.iffgd.org/other-disorders/short-bowel-syndrome.html. Accessed Nov. 18, 2019.
  5. Brown AY. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic. Nov. 14, 2019.

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