Intestinal Failure
Signs and Symptoms

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.


Patients who may benefit from being treated at the Intestinal Rehabilitation and Transplantation Program include:

Adults with intestinal failure caused by:

  • Desmoid tumor, a benign growth of tissue that can develop in the abdomen
  • Fistulae or an abnormal duct that connects an abscess, cavity or hollow organ to the body surface or to another hollow organ
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease where chronic inflammation occurs in the intestines
  • Multiple intestinal surgeries resulting in adhesions, motility problems that may lead to abnormal intestinal contractions and spasms
  • Pseudoobstruction that impairs gastrointestinal motility despite the absence of an actual obstruction
  • Radiation enteritis, a disorder of the large and small bowel that occurs during or after a course of radiation therapy to the abdomen, pelvis or rectum
  • Refractory celiac disease, also known as sprue, a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food
  • Superior mesenteric artery/vein thrombosis
  • Trauma
  • Tumor resection
  • Volvulus or an abnormal rotation of the intestine

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

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