Short Bowel Syndrome – Symptoms and Complications

Short bowel syndrome

is a condition in which there is malabsorption of the ingested food due to surgical removal of a large portion of the small intestine or severe intestinal disease.

Actually, the word ‘Short Bowel Syndrome’ means a group of problems related to malabsorption. Affected people have had half or more than half of their small intestine removed. The disease is also is also called ‘short gut syndrome’ or short gut. In this article, we discuss symptoms and complications of short bowel syndrome.

Symptoms of Short Bowel Syndrome:

The main symptom of short bowel syndrome is


Food is passed away soon from the intestine without getting absorbed. Dehydration, malabsorption and weight loss are results of this type of diarrhea. It needs to be treated immediately as it can be fatal.

Other symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Steatorrhea, that is, oily or sticky stool
  • Fluid retention

Complications of short bowel syndrome:

In short bowel syndrome there is less absorption. This causes nutrient deficiencies such as deficiencies in vitamins A, D, E, K and B12. Deficiencies of calcium, iron, magnesium, folic acid and zinc also manifest due to malabsorption. Some of the complications include:

  • Anemia
  • Hyperkeratosis
  • Easy bruising
  • Muscle spasms
  • Poor blood clotting
  • Bone pain

The above nutrient deficiencies are specific to the sections of the small intestines removed or are not functioning properly. For instance,

  • If the duodenum is absent, iron deficiency is the result because iron is absorbed in this section
  • If the jejunum is absent, there are many complications as this is the section where carbohydrates, fats, proteins and vitamins are absorbed.
  • If the ileum is absent, there may deficiency of bile acids and vitamin B12.

You can get more information about causes, diagnosis and treatment of short bowel syndrome in related articles on this site.


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