Tiny Fighters: Making Connections

Johanna P -

Hi everyone and welcome back!

In this blog post, I will explore short bowel syndrome (SBS) and its relationship to NEC. The reason why I decided to discuss this condition is because in my research with Dr. Halpern, we briefly touched on how NEC could influence other conditions or have similarities to other conditions. One of these was SBS. While these two conditions are slightly different, they share similarities that can provide insight into their possible causes, mechanisms, and treatments.

Short bowel syndrome is a rare but serious condition that affects the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. This can occur due to the surgical removal of part of the small intestine, or because of congenital conditions that cause the intestine to be underdeveloped or damaged. SBS can lead to malnutrition, dehydration, and other complications that can be life-threatening.

NEC is a common gastrointestinal disease that primarily affects premature infants. It occurs when the intestinal tissue becomes inflamed, leading to bacterial invasion, tissue death, and perforation. NEC can cause significant damage to the small intestine, which can lead to SBS if a significant portion of the intestine is removed.

The link between NEC and SBS is that since NEC is caused by inflammation in the small intestine, surgery made be needed to remove the sections that are severely damaged or necrotized. If substantial intestine is removed, that leaves little surface area to work with regarding the amount of nutrients that can be absorbed. This is characterized as short bowel syndrome. The more surface area, the healthier the infant. Researchers are also investigating whether certain proteins, bile acids, or other molecules play a role in the development of these conditions.

While there is no cure for SBS, treatment typically involves managing symptoms and providing nutritional support. This may include special diets, parenteral nutrition (intravenous feeding), and medications to manage complications such as diarrhea or bacterial overgrowth. In some cases, intestinal transplantation may be an option.

In conclusion, SBS and NEC are complex conditions that require further research to better understand their causes and treatments. By comparing these conditions and identifying common mechanisms, researchers can develop new strategies to help manage symptoms and improve outcomes for infants. Thank you for reading!




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    Hi Johanna, great connection. Is Hirschsprung's disease another related condition? This was one that DID hear about when my son was born.
    Alana Rothschild
    Hi Johanna! Thank you for the detailed info? How are each of these diseases detected? In other words, what signs should parents be aware of? Keep up the great work.
    Hi Ms. Bennett! That's a great question. Hirschsprung's disease can lead to necrotizing enterocolitis. It occurs because the nerves in the intestines fail to function properly, leading to bowel issues. This can cause the intestines to become inflamed and therefore, NEC. Thank you!
    Hi Ms. Rothschild! That's a wonderful question. Some signs to look out for short bowel syndrome (SBS) are diarrhea, dehydration, malnutrition, and weight loss. SBS can be detected by blood tests, stool tests, X-rays, and endoscopies. Typically, protein levels, anemia, and electrolytes are looked at first in those blood tests while fat absorption is detected by the stool tests. Some CT scans can give a broad overview of possible complications in the abdomen. Endoscopies can also survey the esophagus and stomach for any other issues regarding SBS. Thank you!

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