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Short Bowel Syndrome


Short bowel syndrome (SBS) is a serious and chronic malabsorption disorder

SBS occurs when parts of the intestine are removed surgically and the remaining intestine may not be able to absorb enough nutrients from food and drink.

The term “short gut” is sometimes used, but the condition is officially called short bowel syndrome (SBS, for short).

This results in malabsorption. It puts people at risk for:

knife fork malnutrition


water drop dehydration


electrolyte disturbances

Electrolyte disturbances

bathroom icon diarrhea increased outputs

Diarrhea/increased outputs

There are multiple factors a doctor may use to determine an sbs diagnosis, not just the length of remaining bowel

The causes of SBS can be different in adults and children

SBS in adults often starts with other medical conditions that lead to loss of function and surgical removal of parts of the intestines. These can include:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Vascular events
  • Traumatic injury to the small bowel

Unlike in adults, surgical resection in children is often due to a condition at birth:

  • Necrotizing enterocolitis, commonly referred to as NEC, is the most common cause in premature infants and occurs when the lining of the intestinal wall dies
  • Other conditions at birth include:
    • stomach wall defects (gastroschisis)
    • blockage in the intestine (intestinal atresia)
    • twisting of the intestine (volvulus)
    • missing nerve cells in the intestine (Hirschsprung’s disease)
    • other congenital (birth) defects

Many people with SBS require parenteral support

Parenteral support (PS) is any kind of nutrition and/or fluids that are given through a vein (intravenously).

Based on your personal needs, PS can include a mix of nutrients, such as:

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

Every person with SBS is different, and PS requirements can vary.

People who are dependent on PS have a range of needs, from temporary use of intravenous fluids to total parenteral nutrition (TPN). TPN provides people with all of their daily nutrition.

Treatment goals for people with SBS include:


Maintaining essential nutrition and hydration


Helping the intestine adapt so that it can properly digest nutrients and fluids


Reducing or eliminating the need for long-term PS


Improving daily life by supporting healthy work, sleep, and social habits

PS provides essential nutrition but does not help the intestine absorb more nutrients

It’s important to understand the role of a hormone called GLP-2

GLP-2 impacts the way the body absorbs nutrients.

GLP-2, short for glucagon-like peptide-2, is a hormone produced in the intestine that helps the body absorb nutrients and fluids. Hormones are chemical messengers that help your body in many different ways.