Background. Intestinal transplantation has become an accepted therapy for short bowel syndrome and other types of intestinal failure. In order to assess digestive capabilities and feeding practices in a group of 22 pediatric patients after intestinal transplantation, we assessed mucosal disaccharidase activities and assimilation of total dietary lipid and vitamin E. Twelve of the patients had undergone contemporaneous liver transplantation. Methods. Mucosal biopsies were assayed for disaccharidase activities between 15 and 412 days after transplantation in 7 of the 22 when all were receiving some enteral nutrition and were free of rejection. Coefficients of lipid absorption were determined in those patients receiving total enteral feeding (two-thirds polymeric/one-third elemental) between 43 and 1032 days after transplantation; oral vitamin E tolerance tests were done at about the same time. Results. Activities of lactase, sucrase, maltase, and palatinase consistently exceeded reference ranges (P<0.05). Mean coefficient of lipid absorption equaled 86±12% and was not influenced by duration of time after transplantation. No patient required dietary lipid restriction. No significant absorption of vitamin E was demonstrated until 160 days after transplantation. Vitamin E absorption did correlate with length of time elapsed after surgery (r=0.64, P<0.0011). Conclusions. The results of this investigation show that, in the absence of histologic or clinical indications of allograft rejection, pediatric intestinal transplant recipients do not have primary disaccharidase deficiencies. Similarly, absorption of usual dietary lipid content is adequate once weaning from parenteral nutrition is complete. In contrast, early assimilation of vitamin E is poor. Vitamin E absorption subsequently improves, but the mechanism is obscure.
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