Intestinal transplant for Crohn's disease

Intestinal transplant is a relatively new surgery for people whose intestines are failing. In some cases of severe Crohn's disease or other illnesses, most of the small intestine may be removed. Some people have so much of their small intestine removed that their bodies no longer can absorb nutrients (short bowel syndrome). People with no functioning small intestine must receive nutrition through intravenous (IV) feeding, which is called total parenteral nutrition (TPN). TPN treatment can have life-threatening complications, including infection and liver failure.

A surgeon transplants the small intestine of a cadaver into a person with Crohn's disease. In some cases, the liver or other digestive organs may be transplanted at the same time.

An intestinal transplant is an extremely difficult procedure that is done in only a few medical centers. A small percentage of people with Crohn's disease are considered for this surgery. Intestinal transplants carry a high risk of death during surgery and of complications, including rejection of the new organs. People who have organ transplants must take medicines that prevent their body from rejecting the organ. Those medicines increase the risk of infections.

Last Updated: October 9, 2008

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