Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) in Children

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Contact the Short Bowel Program

The small intestine is an important part of the digestive tract – it’s where we absorb most of the sugars, proteins and fats from the food we eat. If a child doesn’t have enough small intestine, her body can't extract the nutrients it needs to grow and thrive. This is known as short bowel syndrome (SBS), and it’s a serious condition because if left untreated, it can lead to dehydration and malnutrition.

Luckily, there are several ways to manage and treat SBS – including a groundbreaking surgical procedure developed by doctors here at
Boston Children’s Hospital .

Short bowel syndrome has only one cause: not enough intestines for your child’s body to absorb nutrients from food.  There may be many reasons for this – your child may have been born without a sufficient length of intestine, or a large section of her intestine may have been removed for surgery to correct another intestinal problem.

  • It can be more or less severe, depending on the remaining length of intestine and on how well the other organs in your child’s digestive system are working.

  • SBS is managed with IV or tube feedings, medications and sometimes surgery

  • Long-term prognosis has been improving with the discovery of a nutritional supplement that can lessen the risk of liver damage and with innovative surgical procedures.

How Boston Children’s approaches short bowel syndrome

The Center for Advanced Intestinal Rehabilitation (CAIR) at Children’s is one of the world’s premier programs for the treatment of short bowel syndrome, a complex and often devastating disorder caused by the loss of part of the small bowel. Each year, our program cares for about 200 children from all regions of the United States, and abroad.

Our program is staffed by a compassionate team of experts with experience in caring for children with short bowel syndrome and their families. Our specialists include:

  • physicians trained in surgery, gastroenterology and nutrition
  • registered dieticians
  • nurse practitioners
  • nurses
  • pharmacist
  • social worker

In 2002, our doctors performed the world's first serial transverse enteroplasty (STEP) procedure, a surgical technique developed by Tom Jaksic, MD and Heung Bae Kim, MD, which lengthens the bowels of children with short bowel syndrome. Since then, we have performed more than two dozen of these procedures with increasing success, establishing Boston Children's as one of the preeminent hospitals in the world for the treatment of short bowel syndrome.

Short bowel syndrome: Reviewed by Christopher P. Duggan, MD, MPH
© Children’s Hospital Boston, 2011

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