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Digestive health centre

Small bowel transplant

If a person has bowel or intestinal failure because their bowel is diseased, damaged or the person has a short gut, a small bowel transplant may be considered if they are assessed to be a suitable recipient.

This would be carried out at a bowel transplant centre after a referral to specialists. These are located at Birmingham Children's Hospital, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, King's College Hospital, London and Oxford's Churchill Hospital.

One of the main criteria for a bowel transplant is when a person who has total parenteral nutrition (TPN) - where nutrition is given through an IV drip into the bloodstream - develops complications or is not tolerating this well.

The aim of the operation is to give the person more independence and to be able to eat as normally as possible.

Bowel transplants are still a relatively rare procedure, with up to around 20 carried out in the UK each year.

The operation can take the surgical team up to around 10 hours to complete.

A stoma procedure is done as part of the transplant operation so that body waste exits through a tube rather than the anus. This is called an ileostomy and surgeons would hope to reverse the procedure some months later if the bowel transplant has been successful.

All operations carry risks as well as benefits. The 5 year survival rate after a bowel transplant procedure is 62% for adults and 51% for children.

If a person has liver disease as well as bowel problems, surgeons may perform a combined liver and bowel transplant operation.

Donor bowels usually come from people who have died who signed up to be an organ donor. In some cases a living family member can donate a section of bowel to replace a diseased part.

After the operation, recovery will take place in an intensive care unit with round-the-clock monitoring for any signs of problems.

Discharge from hospital after a bowel transplant is typically around 6 weeks after the operation.

By then feeding should have transferred from being done via a tube to eating and drinking by mouth.

Anti-organ rejection medication will need to be taken for life. Regular follow-up appointments and tests will be arranged to monitor progress.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 05, 2017

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