What is intestinal failure?

Intestinal failure is the loss of the absorptive capacity of the small bowel. A common cause for children is short gut syndrome, a congenital disorder in which an infant's intestine is too short or underdeveloped to allow normal food digestion. Among other causes are abdominal trauma, Crohn's disease, thrombotic disorders and surgical adhesions.

What causes intestinal failure?

Intestinal failure can be caused by disease or by trauma, which affects how the intestine absorbs nutrients or moves food through the intestinal tract. If the intestine structure is damaged, or there is a problem with the blood supply to the intestine, a transplant may be necessary to repair the damage and restore proper functioning.

What is small bowel transplant and how does it help the patient?

Small bowel transplant is the transplantation of an intestine to an individual with irreversible intestinal failure. The purpose of this transplant is to restore intestinal function. It is used to treat intestinal failure when other treatments, such as parenteral nutrition (intravenous tube feeding or TPN) are not successful.

How many patients receive small bowel transplants each year at Georgetown?

One hundred patients receive small bowel transplants each year at Georgetown. Between 60 and 70 are children, age 18 and under.

What are the survival rates for small bowel transplants?

The three-year survival rate for intestinal transplant patients is 70 percent and greater.

Small bowel transplantation was first attempted in people in 1964.

How is small bowel transplantation performed?

Small bowel transplantation can be performed in one of three ways: alone, in combination with the liver or multi-visceral (i.e., with one or more of the following: liver, pancreas, stomach, duodenum, intestine and colon).

How can I qualify for small bowel transplantation?

The individual must have none of the following for any small bowel transplantation:

  • Life expectancy of fewer than five years due to age-related debilitation and co-morbidities
  • Ability to ingest oral nutrition
  • Unresectable malignancy
  • Serious, uncontrolled psychiatric illness that would hinder following directions with any stage of the transplant process
  • Neurologic illness independent of the disease process being treated
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • HIV (positive)
  • Active and / or life-threatening infection
  • Severe body / organ system disease unrelated to transplanted organ
  • Compromised cardio-pulmonary function unrelated to transplanted organ
  • Inability or unwillingness of the individual or legal guardian to give signed consent and to comply with regular follow-up requirements


Make an Appointment

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a small bowel transplant specialist, please call our scheduling line:



Transplant Clinic Lab Hours

Monday: 7:30 am to 4 pm
Tuesday: 7:30 am to 4 pm
Wednesday: 9 am to 6 pm
Thursday: 7:30 am to 4 pm
Friday: 7 am to 3:30 pm

Research & Clinical Trials

Research is a critical part of what we do at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Learn more about our research on treating and managing advanced disease and transplantation surgery.