St. Louis doctors working on treatments for short bowel syndrome in children

ST. LOUIS, MO — SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis is taking part in nationwide research looking into the mysteries of short bowel syndrome in children. Doctors want to know why one treatment for the condition is leading to more problems.

Short bowel syndrome means a child's bowel isn't long enough and doesn't properly absorb nutrients from food. Dr. Ajay Jain  SLUCare Gastroenterologist at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital says SBS may develop when part of their bowel is surgically removed because a child is born with a damaged small bowel.

"One of the disheartening parts of short bowel is it tends to affect a most vulnerable population which is premature babies," said Dr. Ajay Jain

Depending on how well the small intestine is working, SBS may be associated with mild to severe symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, poor appetite, weight loss or weight gain and vomiting.  Other complications can occur from SBS include dehydration, kidney stones or gallstones, high levels of bacteria in the intestine and more.

A life-saving treatment is intravenous feeding called total parenteral nutrition but long-term parenteral nutrition can cause other problems. "No one knows why but why life-saving parenteral nutrition notoriously causes liver damage and gut injury," said Dr. Jain.

Dr. Jain says SSM Health Cardinal Glennon doctors are working on the mystery through its multi-specialty clinic.  The hope is to avoid further surgery and reintroduce food intake by mouth

"We have had patients who we have been successful at weening them off the parenteral nutrition and then they can lead their normal lives which is sort of the key goal for providing gut rehabilitation services," said Dr. Jain.

For more information about SBS, click here.