Short bowel syndrome


Short bowel syndrome, also known as short gut syndrome, is a condition characterized by the body not absorbing enough fluids and nutrients due to a missing or not functioning part of the small intestine. This condition can be life-threatening if untreated.

The small intestine is a part of the digestive system that absorbs fluids, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals from food. If the small intestine changes or is damaged, it can affect how well the body absorbs these essential nutrients. With short bowel syndrome, parts of the small intestine are surgically removed due to medical conditions, or babies are born with a short or damaged small intestine that needs surgical removal.

Short bowel syndrome can be either a lifelong or short-term condition for a child. Treatment usually includes special diets, nutritional supplements, and sometimes parenteral nutrition, where nutrients are delivered through a vein to prevent malnutrition. In some cases, surgery may also be considered.


In infants and children, the most common symptoms of short bowel syndrome are loose, watery stool or diarrhea. Other common symptoms include:

  • Poor growth and malnutrition
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of weight
  • Bloating
  • Excessive gas
  • Foul-smelling, greasy stools
  • Edema, or swelling, in the feet and legs


Short bowel syndrome is caused by having a short, small intestine, which affects the body’s ability to break down and absorb food. There are two main factors that results to this:

  • Small intestine growth abnormalities at birth: Some children are born with missing or damaged sections, or incomplete formation of the small intestine.
  • Surgery: Short bowel syndrome can be a side effect of surgery that removed part of the small intestine to treat another condition. , such as Crohn’s disease, cancer, injuries, or blood clots.