What is short bowel syndrome?

Short bowel syndrome (SBS) is a rare, complex and potentially serious malabsorption disorder. It happens when you don’t have enough small bowel (intestine), or your small bowel does not work well. This prevents your body from absorbing enough nutrients, such as water, protein, calories, fat, vitamins and other things your body needs. The specific nutrients your body has difficulty absorbing depends on what part of your small intestine has been removed or is damaged. 

People may have SBS for different reasons, such as:

  • Surgery to remove a major portion of the small and large intestines. Surgery may be done to treat birth defects, gastrointestinal (GI) diseases, like Crohn’s disease, or injuries.  
  • Being born with part of the small intestine missing, damaged or too short.  
  • Having small intestines that don’t work well for other or even unknown reasons.  

Most children with SBS are diagnosed shortly after birth. They typically have a GI condition that requires surgery. Children diagnosed early may have a very different experience with SBS than those who develop the condition as an adult. 

Did you know?

You may have been dealing with SBS for as long as you can remember. So, it might surprise you to learn that people diagnosed at very early ages — called pediatric onset — tend to know less about SBS than those diagnosed as a later age.

What is transition of care?

As a young person growing up with a chronic health condition, you might be used to your parents or caregivers taking the lead role in your health. But now that you’re getting older, you’ll need to get more involved with your care. 

Usually between the 18-21 years of age, you’ll need to make a big change — leaving your pediatric are team and starting to see different providers who see adults.

This change may seem a bit overwhelming. All adolescents and young adults need to transition to adult care. But since you have SBS, it’s vital that changes in your care happen smoothly and that your health care needs are met throughout the transition and beyond.

Video: Moving from pediatric to adult care with SBS

Medical advisors:

  • Valeria C. Cohran, MD, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Illinois
  • Rajeev Jain, MD, AGAF, Texas Digestive Disease Consultants, Dallas
  • Elizabeth Wall, RD, The University of Chicago Medical Center, Illinois


This program is supported by an educational grant from Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc.