Short bowel syndrome with intestinal failure (SBS-IF) is a disorder arising from an inability to absorb nutrients from food and fluid in the gut. It is often caused by the surgical removal of all or part of the small intestine.1

Children that have a small bowel length which is less than 25% of the expected length for their age group and have intestinal failure are considered to have SBS-IF.1–3






In children, SBS-IF can be caused by a condition which was present from birth (congenital) or due to resection of their small intestine (acquired). SBS is the leading cause of IF in children.1,2 The most common causes of intestinal resection leading to SBS-IF in children are:1–3

  • Gastroschisis - A birth defect/hole in the abdominal wall
  • Midgut volvulus - Twisted intestine caused during development of the fetus
  • Necrotising enterocolitis - A medical condition where a portion of the bowel dies
  • Intestinal atresia - Blockage in the intestine caused by poor development of the fetal bowel







Due to its reduced length, the small bowel is unable to function effectively. It cannot absorb the amount of nutrients and fluids needed for your child’s growth and health. This may cause a variety of symptoms, such as:1–3




Impaired growth

Fluid & electrolyte imbalance



SBS-IF can affect your child’s ability to gain weight, grow physically, develop mentally and socially.1–5


In children, once a significant portion of the small intestine is removed, the remaining small intestine can go through a process called intestinal adaptation. During this process, the remaining small intestine becomes more efficient and increases its ability to absorb nutrients and fluids. This is a highly variable process which is unique to each child. The process can start shortly after an intestinal resection and continue for up to 60 months. Unfortunately, not all children will be able to achieve intestinal adaptation naturally and some may require surgery.1,2


Children with SBS-IF can be treated with parenteral support (PS; parenteral nutrition and/or intravenous fluid [PN/IV]) a life-saving treatment which provides the nutrients and fluids needed to help support growth and the general health of your child.1

Your child’s healthcare professional will discuss with you the treatment options available. They will also explain the associated benefits and side-effects of your child’s treatment.



Having a child who has been diagnosed with SBS-IF is not only difficult for the child but also the whole family. It can affect many different aspects of life.1

Transitioning from parenteral nutrition (PN) being administered in hospital to PN at home can significantly improve your child and your family’s quality of life. However, Home Parenteral Nutrition (HPN) can be a time-consuming procedure, as the child may be connected by the vein for 10-12 hours overnight.1–3

In comparison to adults, children have a higher chance of achieving intestinal adaptation and therefore weaning off HPN.4–7

If you have further questions, speak to your healthcare professional and search for local patient associations available offering help and support.



The main goal of medical and surgical treatment of SBS-IF is to enhance the ability of the remaining bowel to absorb vital nutrients.1





Contact your healthcare professional with questions or visit our patient support page

Date of preparation: December 2020 C-ANPROM/INT/REV/0007