Short bowel syndrome in infants and children: an overview

D L Sigalet
Seminars in Pediatric Surgery 2001, 10 (2): 49-55
Short bowel syndrome is a spectrum of malnutrition resulting from inadequate bowel length. In infant and pediatric patients, the most common causes are necrotizing enterocolitis, abdominal wall defects, jejunal ileal atresia, and mid gut volvulus. There appear to be regional variations in etiology. Since the publication of Wilmore's classic monograph in 1972, there have been significant improvements in monitoring and nutritional support. In the modern era, survival rate ranges from 80% to 94%, and the presence or absence the ileal cecal valve appears to not impact on mortality rate, but does significantly affect the length of time on total parenteral nutrition TPN. The most common morbidities remain sepsis, both central line related and bacterial overgrowth, and TPN cholestasis. Long-term recovery of these children often is remarkably normal, but there is a 10% to 15% incidence of neurologic and developmental defects. The clinical and ethical considerations around the care of infants with 20 to 40 cm of residual bowel remains controversial, as does the place of intestinal transplantation, especially in patients developing gut failure in infancy. Perioperative surgical decision making plays a critical role in the long-term outcome of these patients. This chapter presents an overview of the current status of care and outcome in this difficult population; these topics are further expanded in subsequent chapters.

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