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Short Bowel Support
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A Patient’s Guide to Managing a Short Bowel

Get a complimentary book created by registered dietitian Carol Rees Parrish to help patients understand the workings of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and how to maximize what’s left of theirs.



About Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS)

Short Bowel Syndrome, also known as SBS, is a potentially fatal gastrointestinal disorder in which patients are unable to absorb enough nutrients and fluids through the intestine from the food they eat. SBS generally occurs when a large portion of the intestine has been removed by surgery as a result of disease or injury.

Conditions that can lead to Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) include those that:

  • Happen as a result of disease or injury
  • Occur at birth because of a congenital defect or when an infant is born with complications from prematurity that require surgeries of the intestinal tract early in life

Some patients with SBS receive an ostomy, which is a surgical opening created through the skin in the belly (abdomen) for the elimination of body wastes. The amount of bowel that is removed and the function of the remaining bowel play an important role for people affected with Short Bowel Syndrome.

Diseases or injury that may require surgery resulting in SBS

  • Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is a chronic disorder that causes inflammation and injury to the bowel. Crohn’s disease can result in one or more surgical resections. Visit the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) for more information.
  • Vascular disease or injury. This is damage or blockage to intestinal blood vessels that limits blood flow that may injure the bowel and may require surgical resection of the bowel.
  • Cancer surgery. The removal of tumors in the intestine may require surgical resections.
  • Volvulus. Volvulus is a twisting of the intestine causing a blockage that may cut off blood flow, damage tissue in the intestine and could lead to surgery.

Conditions before birth or in infancy that may require surgery and result in SBS

  • Necrotizing enterocolitis. Necrotizing enterocolitis, also called NEC, is an inflammation or infection of the intestine that causes damage to bowel tissue in premature infants. This condition generally occurs in the first two weeks of life after oral feeding has been introduced into the diet.
  • Intestinal atresia. Intestinal atresia describes a complete blockage or obstruction in the intestine.
  • Gastroschisis. Gastroschisis is a type of hernia in which the intestine develops outside the abdomen through a weakened abdominal wall.

Learn more about surgical resections

Three main types of surgical resections can result in a shortened bowel and lead to SBS. To learn more about these types of surgeries, click here.

Words appearing on this site in purple are defined in the Glossary. If you are unfamiliar with any of these words, just click on them for a definition.