Irreversible intestinal failure


Irreversible intestinal failure


Goulet O; Ruemmele F; Lacaille F; Colomb V


Journal Of Pediatric Gastroenterology And Nutrition




Child; Humans; Parenteral Nutrition; Adaptation; infant; Physiological; Gastrointestinal Motility; Intestinal Absorption; Digestive Physiology; Hirschsprung Disease/complications; Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction/complications/surgery; Intestines/transplantation; Liver Diseases/prevention & control; Malabsorption Syndromes/etiology/therapy; Short Bowel Syndrome/complications/surgery


Intestinal failure (IF) can be defined as the reduction of functional gut mass below the minimal amount necessary for digestion and absorption adequate to satisfy the nutrient and fluid requirements for maintenance in adults or growth in children. In developed countries, IF mainly includes individuals with the congenital or early onset of conditions requiring protracted or indefinite parenteral nutrition (PN). Short bowel syndrome was the first commonly recognized cause of protracted IF. The normal physiologic process of intestinal adaptation after extensive resection usually allows for recovery of sufficient intestinal function within weeks to months. During this time, patients can be sustained on parenteral nutrition. Only a few children have permanent intestinal insufficiency and life-long dependency on PN. Non-transplant surgery including small bowel tapering and lengthening may allow weaning from PN in some cases. Hormonal therapy with recombinant human growth hormone has produced poor results while therapy with glucagon-like peptide-2 holds promise. Congenital diseases of enterocyte development such as microvillus inclusion disease or intestinal epithelial dysplasia cause permanent IF for which no curative medical treatment is currently available. Severe and extensive motility disorders such as total or subtotal intestinal aganglionosis (long segment Hirschsprung disease) or chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction syndrome may also cause permanent IF. PN and home-PN remain are the mainstays of therapy regardless of the cause of IF. Some patients develop complications while receiving long-term PN for IF especially catheter related complications (thrombosis, sepsis) and liver disease. These patients may be candidates for intestinal transplantation. This review discusses the causes of irreversible IF and emphasizes the specific medico-surgical strategies for prevention and treatment of these conditions at several stages of IF.


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Goulet O; Ruemmele F; Lacaille F; Colomb V, “Irreversible intestinal failure,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed May 26, 2024,