Short Bowel Syndrome



Short bowel syndrome happens when half or more of the small intestine is removed. It reduces how much vitamins and minerals are absorbed from food.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of short bowel syndrome are:

  • Crohn disease—this is the most common reason the small intestine is removed
  • Problems with blood flow
  • Premature birth or very low birth weight
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Intestinal atresias
  • Gastroschisis



A person with short bowel syndrome may have:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping or bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Malnourishment
  • Poor growth
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble after eating some foods


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Blood tests may also be done to check for nutrition and absorption problems.



The goals of treatment are to help a person have the right fluid and nutrient intake, and to manage symptoms. This can be done with:

  • Fluids or nutrition given through an IV
  • Advice on what to eat, how much, and when
  • Supplements to help get more needed vitamins and minerals
  • Medicines to help food stay in the intestines longer so more nutrients can be absorbed
  • Surgery to implant a small bowel and replace what was removed


There are no current guidelines to prevent short bowel syndrome.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.