SBS is a serious and chronic malabsorption disorder caused by intestinal resection due to multiple causes including injury, disease or birth defects."

Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) Causes and Conditions"

Short bowel syndrome can result from certain medical circumstances

Whether it is a result of disease or removal of part or all of your intestines, SBS is a serious medical condition that can greatly affect your health and life.

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What is SBS?

Short Bowel Syndrome, also known as SBS, is a rare, serious and chronic malabsorption condition where patients are unable to absorb enough nutrients and fluids from the food they eat due to the surgical removal of a large part of their intestines. Characterized by diarrhea, dehydration and electrolyte disturbances, SBS is typically the result of chronic malabsorption following the removal of a large part of the intestines (a bowel resection).

The remaining intestine must then absorb all the important fluids and nutrients — like protein and carbohydrates — that the body needs to function normally. However, the shortened GI tract is not always up for the task. Therefore, SBS patients often require intravenous nutrition and/or fluids (parenteral support) to achieve adequate nutrition.

A Patient's Guide to Managing a Short Bowel by Carol Rees Parrish, MS, RD.

For more information about SBS, talk to your doctor and sign up to receive a copy of A Patient's Guide to Managing a Short Bowel by Carol Rees Parrish, MS, RD.

What can cause SBS?

There are many diseases and conditions that can require surgical removal of intestines, which may increase the risk for SBS:

  • Crohn’s disease: This chronic disease causes inflammation and injury to the intestines. When severe enough, treatment can include bowel resection surgery for Crohn’s patients. Learn more about the disease at the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.
  • Bariatric or gastric bypass surgery complications: Gastric bypass and bariatric surgery are designed to help people lose weight. However, severe complications from these surgeries may require different types of bowel resections.
  • Trauma: Traumatic injury to the intestine, either penetrating or blunt, such as from a car crash, can lead to bowel resections and possibly SBS.
  • Vascular events: Sometimes referred to as intestinal ischemia, vascular disease or injury is when the blood vessels in the intestines can’t deliver enough blood (and consequently oxygen and nutrients) to the organ to allow it to function properly. In severe cases, this can lead to tissue death and, ultimately, resection.
  • Cancer surgery: During certain cancer treatments, it may be necessary to have tumors in the intestine removed or undergo radiation therapy, both of which can lead to resection.
  • Volvulus: This is a twisting of the intestine that causes a blockage that cuts off blood flow. The damaged tissue, starved of oxygen, may need to be removed via resection.

These intestinal birth defects may result in removal of all or part of the bowel, as well:

  • Necrotizing enterocolitis: Also called NEC, is an inflammation or infection of the intestine that damages bowel tissue in premature infants. Necrotizing enterocolitis generally occurs in the first two weeks after the child’s been introduced to oral feedings.
  • Intestinal atresia: IA, or intestinal atresia, occurs in infants who haven’t formed their intestines completely. Instead of their bowels acting like an open tube, they are closed off in one or more places, which can cause blockage or obstruction. This often leads to infection, swelling and, ultimately, resection.
  • Gastroschisis: This birth defect is when an infant’s intestines develop outside of the body through a hole next to the belly button. Since the intestines aren’t protected and are exposed to amniotic fluid, the bowels can become irritated and injured. Gastroschisis treatment almost always requires surgery.
A short bowel syndrome (SBS) patient, Norma

“My doctor diagnosed me with Crohn's Disease when I was 26, and for a very long time I was able to manage it with diet and medication. But then it just kinda got out of hand. It got a lot worse, and they decided to go in and take out the diseased portion of my intestines. Unfortunately, there was a lot more diseased portion than they thought, so my doctor told me I had short bowel syndrome.”

- Norma, SBS Patient

Diagnosing Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS)

Have you ever been diagnosed with one of the above medical conditions?

If yes or unsure, complete the Doctor Discussion Guide and talk to your doctor.