Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) in Children

Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) in Children

The small intestine is an important part of the digestive tract where most sugars, proteins and fats from the food we eat are absorbed. If a child doesn’t have enough small intestine, their body can’t extract the nutrients it needs to grow and thrive. This is known as short bowel syndrome (SBS), and it’s a serious condition because if left untreated, it can lead to dehydration and malnutrition.

Short bowel syndrome has only one cause: not enough intestines for your child’s body to absorb nutrients from food.  There may be many reasons for this – your child may have been born without a sufficient length of intestine, or a large section of her intestine may have been removed for surgery to correct another intestinal problem.


Some of the symptoms associated with SBS are listed below. Sometimes, Gastroesophageal reflux is an early sign of something else going on in the intestines and can be mis-diagnosed where symptoms cross over. Which is why it’s important to always speak to your health professional, if you are worried.

  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Failure to gain weight

Short bowel syndrome can often be treated with specially formulated tube or IV feedings and with medications, and it can sometimes be treated surgically as well. Your child’s prognosis depends strongly on how much working intestine remains, and how well the other organs in their digestive system are functioning. Many children adapt well to receiving nutrition through tubes or through an IV, and go on to school and college and leading relatively normal lives.

Previous article Guide to healthy breastfeeding diet for reflux babies