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Intestinal Failure

Intestinal failure occurs when your intestines can't digest food and absorb the fluids, electrolytes and nutrients essential to live. Intestinal failure is most often caused by short bowel syndrome, a problem that affects people who have had half or more of their small intestine removed due to injury or surgery to treat conditions such as trauma or mesenteric artery thrombosis. Intestinal failure also may be caused by digestive disorders, such as Crohn's disease or chronic idiopathic intestinal pseudoobstruction syndrome, which causes the bowel to malfunction.

If you have intestinal failure, you may receive all or most of your nutrients and calories intravenously through total parenteral nutrition (TPN). TPN is given through a catheter placed in the arm, groin, neck or chest. Patients on TPN may live for many years, but long-term use of TPN can result in serious complications, such as bone disorders, central venous catheter infections and liver disease. Our goal is to restore intestinal function to minimize and ultimately eliminate the need for TPN. Unfortunately, not every patient can be weaned from TPN. In these cases, we work to optimize the use of TPN and decrease the risk of complications.

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Patients interested in the Intestinal Rehabilitation and Transplantation Program must complete an evaluation before qualifying for the program. Our team reviews each patient's medical history, including the primary diagnosis, previous surgeries, previous treatments and current nutritional status to determine whether he or she will benefit from intestinal rehabilitation.

The patient evaluation process includes:

  • Consultations with a gastroenterologist and nurse practitioner, surgeon, nutritionist and social worker
  • Laboratory tests
  • Radiological tests
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The Intestinal Rehabilitation and Transplantation Program offers a wide range services for adults and children. The type and length of treatment differs for each patient, depending on the needs and goals.

Services include:

  • Counseling and education about intestinal rehabilitation
  • Drug and diet modification to train the small intestine to absorb more nutrients
  • Consultations to help assess and correct nutrient deficiencies and prevent damage to kidneys, bones and liver
  • Management of TPN to avoid complications
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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Gastroenterology

Intestinal Rehabilitation and Transplantation Program
350 Parnassus Ave., Suite 410
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (877) 762-6935
Phone: (415) 353-2336
Fax: (415) 353-8917
Appointment information