250 people in the United States are waiting for new intestines.
An intestine transplant is a last resort treatment option for patients with intestinal failure who develop life-threatening complications. In intestinal failure, the intestines can no longer digest food or absorb the fluids, electrolytes and nutrients essential for life. Patients must receive total parenteral nutrition (TPN), which provides liquid nutrition through a catheter or needle inserted into the body. Long-term TPN can result in complications including bone disorders, catheter-related infections and liver failure.
An intestine transplant may involve the whole intestine or an intestine segment. Most of the intestine transplants are whole organ transplants and are performed in conjunction with a liver transplant. Intestine transplants usually involve a deceased donor though it may be possible for a living donor to donate a segment of intestine.
In adults, causes of intestinal failure may include:
- Vascular occlusion
- Crohn’s disease
- Abdominal trauma
- Radiation enteritis
- Surgical adhesions
- Desmoid tumor
In children, causes of intestinal failure may include:
- Necrotizing enterocolitis
- Intestinal atresia
- Microvillus disease
- Familial polyposis
Transplant recipients may take a number of medications after transplant, many for the rest of their lives. The medications help reduce the risk of complications after transplant.
References: TransplantLiving.org, UNOS.org, OPTN.transplant.HRSA.gov and MayoCinic.org
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