Our Center

At the Intestinal Rehabilitation & Transplant Center at the University of Illinois Hospital, our physicians work to ensure the best possible patient care, from diagnostic procedures to intestinal rehabilitation and transplantation.

What is Intestinal Failure?

Intestinal failure is the inability to meet the nutritional and/or fluid requirements in order to maintain nutritional independence necessary for growth and development in children, and maintenance of a normal life in adults. Intestinal failure may result from congenital abnormalities, or as a complication from either a poorly functioning intestine such as chronic idiopathic intestinal pseudo-obstruction syndrome or a surgically-resected intestine. Individuals with intestinal failure require parenteral nutrition (PN).

Parenteral Nutrition (PN)

Patients with intestinal failure may receive all or most of their nutrients and calories intravenously through parenteral nutrition (PN). PN is administered through a catheter placed in the arm, groin, neck or chest. Patients on PN may live for many years, but long-term use of PN can result in serious complications such as; bone disorders, central venous catheter-infections, and liver disease. In fact, every organ system of the body may be affected. If those complications become life-threatening, an intestinal transplant may be required.

What causes Intestinal Failure?

The causes of intestinal failure are very much age-dependent:

Causes of intestinal failure in children

  • Congenital malformations such as:
    • Infants born with the intestine outside of the body (Small Bowel Gastroschisis)
    • Infants born with narrowed or obstructed intestines (Atresia)
    • Absence of nerve cells that stimulate contraction for proper function (Hirschprung Disease)
  • Short bowel syndrome following extensive bowel surgeries to repair severe twisting of the intestine (e.g., Midgut Volvulus), or life threatening intestinal inflammation (Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC))
  • Disorders that inhibit absorption (e.g., Microvillus Inclusion Disease, Chronic Intestinal Psuedo-Obstruction)
Causes of intestinal failure in adults

  • Small bowel syndrome following extensive surgeries
  • Twisting of the intestine (Volvulus)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., Chron’s disease, Colitis)
  • Small bowel tumors (e.g., Gardner’s syndrome)
  • Soft tissue tumors occurring in the abdominal wall, mesentery, or retroperitoneum (Desmoid tumor)
  • Disorders asscoaited with mobility/contraction or malabsorption of nutrients (e.g., chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction, scleroderma, radiation damaged bowel)

What are the complications of intestinal failure?

  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Vitamin, electrolyte and mineral deficiencies
  • Liver disease
  • Blood infections
  • Gallstones
  • Osteoporosis
  • Kidney damage
  • D-lactic acidosis
  • PN
  • Blood clots