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Nutritional complications and management of intestinal transplant.

Advances in intestinal transplantation provide a promising alternative to patients with intestinal failure and chronic dependence on total parenteral nutrition. However, many physiologic complications arising from the surgical procedure and high-dose immunosuppression, along with potential for rejection and infection, make successful graft function after transplantation a challenge. Nutrition issues unique to this patient population include recovery of normal intestinal motility and absorptive capacity. Diarrhea and high stomal output, which are common postoperatively, lead to deficits in macronutrients and micronutrients, especially electrolytes. Impaired gastrointestinal function affects ability to wean patients off hyperalimentation and enable them to tolerate nutrients enterally. In pediatric recipients of intestinal transplant, lack of experience with food or prior food aversions can lead to refusal to eat after transplant--additional challenges to achieving oral intake. Early and aggressive nutrition intervention is necessary for resolution of nutritional deficits and health of donor small bowel. This article presents an overview of the surgical procedure of intestinal transplantation and describes the physiologic adaptations that occur after the process. A case study demonstrates the clinical and nutritional hurdles associated with an intestinal transplant in a child and how dietitians can provide nutrition management. The potential role of individual nutrients in recovery of the transplanted bowel is also discussed.

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