Do You Need an Intestine Transplant?

Certain intestinal problems can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. When intestinal failure occurs, you may need to receive your daily nourishment through an intravenous (IV) line.

Over time, IV feedings can increase your risk of chronic infection, blood clots and liver failure. If these problems cause malnourishment or threaten your life, you may need an intestine transplant. Our doctors have the expertise and experience to help you make that decision.

Intestinal failure causes

Some common causes of intestinal failure are:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Major abdominal trauma
  • Gardner syndrome (noncancerous tumors in the colon)
  • Pseudo-obstruction of the bowel
  • Complications from gastric bypass surgery
  • Neuroendocrine tumors

Short bowel syndrome (short gut syndrome)

Your doctor may need to surgically remove part of your small intestine to treat the intestinal problem. Short bowel syndrome affects your intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients, vitamins and water from foods. To prevent malnutrition, you may need IV feedings, which are called total parenteral nutrition, or TPN.

Intestine transplant benefits

An intestine transplant can change your life. Benefits of intestine transplant include:

  • You can eat real food again: You may be able to completely stop TPN and resume eating regular foods.
  • You can add years to your life: The national 5-year survival rate for intestine transplant recipients is 80 percent. This rate is 20 percent higher than for those who remain on TPN.

Intestine transplant screening

Before you are placed on a transplant wait list, you must complete several medical tests. These tests include:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests for diabetes, cholesterol and other conditions
  • Blood and tissue typing
  • Heart tests, such as:
    • Echocardiogram (ECG)
    • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
    • Stress test
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Radiological tests to determine intestine length and function
  • Lung function tests

Additional intestine transplant requirements

You also must comply with certain requirements before proceeding with the intestine transplant process:

  • Complete a psychosocial evaluation: This testing identifies mental health concerns that could negatively affect your transplant recovery and success.
  • Abstain from substance use: You must not consume alcohol or use tobacco products or prohibited substances for at least 6 months prior to your transplant. You should avoid these substances after your transplant as well. Henry Ford offers addiction treatment and tobacco treatment services.
  • Form a support system: You will need a stable network of caregivers who can help you during your recovery.
Take the next step

Speak with a Transplant Institute specialist.