Disease Management

Diseases of the Intestine

Intestinal failure is described as the inability of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to absorb adequate nutrition, electrolytes (chemical substances in the blood that are vital for the function of nerves and muscles) and fluids over an extended period of time. The causes of intestinal failure are often divided into two major categories: structural and functional failure.

Structural Intestinal Failure

Structural intestinal failure is often known as short-bowel syndrome (SBS). This is caused by a significant loss of part of the small intestine from surgical removal. Causes of structural intestinal failure in infants include conditions such as:

  • Gastroschisis
  • Intestinal atresia
  • Mid-gut volvulus
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)
  • Omphalocele

In adults some of the causes for structural intestinal failure are:

  • Trauma to the abdomen
  • Crohn's disease
  • Superior mesenteric thrombosis
  • Tumors
  • Mid-gut volvulus

Functional Intestinal Failure

Functional intestinal failure is caused by the intestine's inability to absorb or digest food or fluids. There is enough length but the intestine is not functioning properly. Most of the causes for functional intestinal failure are seen only in children, except for radiation enteritis that is seen in adults. Causes of intestinal failure include:

  • Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (CIPS)
  • Hirschsprung's disease
  • Total aganglionosis
  • Microvillous inclusion disease
  • Tufting enteropathy
  • Radiation enteritis
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