Short Bowel Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Short Bowel Syndrome refers to the improper absorption of the nutrients from the intestines. This happens when the small intestine is shorter than the normal length of around 600 cm. The poor functioning of the small intestines can lead to lack of nutrition in the body or dehydration.

Causes of Short Bowel Syndrome

The main cause of Short Bowel Syndrome is the shorter small intestine, which can be due to:


Some people are born with this birth defect of short bowel syndrome.


In case of a bowel surgery, a part of large or small intestine is removed. This is done to treat intestinal problems.

Other causes:

Radiation, tumour and infections can also cause short bowel syndrome.

Symptoms of Short Bowel Syndrome

The common symptoms of short bowel syndrome are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Excessively foul-smelling stools
  • Abdominal cramp
  • Bloating
  • Unexplained loss of weight
  • Lethargy
  • Hair loss
  • Skin rashes
  • Unable to think properly
  • Unable to see clearly at night

Diagnosis of Short Bowel Syndrome

After taking the entire history of the patient, the following tests are carried out to diagnose short bowel syndrome:

Abdominal X-ray:

The X-ray of the abdomen will detect any kind of abnormality in the small intestine.

Barium enema:

In this test, an enema is inserted into the anus, and barium is put into the tube. This will help the doctors to see the colon and rule out any abnormality.

Blood test:

The blood tests will detect lack of nutrients, fluids or electrolytes in the patient’s body.

Hydrogen breath test:

The test helps in finding out whether the body is absorbing excessive carbohydrates. The doctors can also find out the growth of bacteria in the small intestine.

Urine and stool tests:

Samples of the urine and stool will be tested in the laboratory.

Once the short bowel syndrome is detected, it can be

treated through medicines and nutritional supplements.

In some cases, a

surgery might be required

to rectify the blocked small intestine.


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