Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Short Bowel Syndrome

What is short bowel syndrome?

Short bowel syndrome (SBS) means a child’s bowel (or intestine) isn’t long enough and doesn’t work well enough to properly absorb nutrients from food. SBS can cause malnutrition and serious problems with growth and development.

Short Bowel Syndrome in Children

Children develop SBS when they have a big segment of their bowel removed by surgery. This usually happens because they were born with a condition that damaged their small bowel, such as gastroschisis.

SBS can also occur when a child’s bowel doesn’t completely form before birth (intestinal atresia) or because of conditions such as Hirschsprung disease, necrotizing enterocolitis, volvulus (twisting of the intestines) and bowel injuries.

Diet, intravenous nutrition (total parenteral nutrition or TPN) and medicine often help children with SBS get the nutrition they need. Some children may need surgery or other advanced treatments.

Short Bowel Syndrome at Seattle Children’s

Seattle Children’s Intestinal Rehabilitation Program uses a team of doctors to get the intestine working again. It is the only program of its kind in the Pacific Northwest and one of just a few in the nation.

Our general and thoracic surgery team is experienced in surgeries to treat SBS, including the STEP (serial transverse enteroplasty) procedure. STEP lengthens the bowel in children with SBS.

Some children with SBS may need an intestine transplant. Doctors at Seattle Children’s helped pioneer this procedure. Our Liver and Intestine Transplant Clinic is one of only a few clinics where children can receive intestine transplants.

When you come to Seattle Children’s, we connect you with a team of people – including nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, child life specialists and social workers – who work together to care for all of your child’s needs and help your family through this experience.

Contact Us

To learn more about short bowel syndrome treatment at Seattle Children’s, call our Gastroenterology and Hepatology Clinic at 206-987-2521.