Pathophysiology of short bowel syndrome: considerations of resected and residual anatomy

Kelly A. Tappenden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The human small intestine is organized with a proximal-to-distal gradient of mucosal structure and nutrient processing capacity. However, certain nutrients undergo site-specific digestion and absorption, such as iron and folate in the duodenum/jejunum vs vitamin B12 and bile salts in the ileum. Intestinal resection can result in short bowel syndrome (SBS) due to reduction of total and/or site-specific nutrient processing areas. Depending on the segment(s) of intestine resected, malabsorption can be nutrient specific (eg, vitamin B12 or fat) or sweeping, with deficiencies in energy, protein, and various micronutrients. Jejunal resections are generally better tolerated than ileal resections because of greater postresection adaptive capacity than that of the jejunum. Following intestinal resection, energy scavenging and fluid absorption become particularly important in the colon owing to loss of digestive and absorptive surface area in the resection portion. Resection-induced alterations in enteroendocrine cell abundance can further disrupt intestinal function. For example, patients with end jejunostomy have depressed circulating peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide 2 concentrations, which likely contribute to the rapid intestinal transit and blunted intestinal adaptation observed in this population. SBS-associated pathophysiology often extends beyond the gastrointestinal tract, with hepatobiliary disease, metabolic bone disease, D-lactic acidosis, and kidney stone formation being chronic complications. Clinical management of SBS must be individualized to account for the specific nutrient processing deficit within the remnant bowel and to mitigate potential complications, both inside and outside the gastrointestinal tract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14S-22S
JournalJPEN. Journal of parenteral and enteral nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2014


  • intestine
  • malabsorption
  • pathophysiology
  • short bowel syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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