Background: Surgeons are frequently confronted with patients with the short-bowel syndrome. Important surgical issues are maintaining intestinal continuity, treating complications, and performing procedures to improve intestinal function. Methods: A comprehensive review of the English language literature and the author's own experience were employed to make recommendations about surgical management of the short-bowel syndrome. Conclusion: At the time of initial resection, ostomy formation is often prudent. The decision to restore continuity at a later time should balance anticipated functional outcome against potential complications. Several surgical strategies can be employed at reoperation in these patients to minimize further loss of intestine. Prophylactic cholecystectomy should be considered because of the increased risk of cholelithiasis. Gastric hypersecretion rarely requires operative therapy. Surgical therapy for the short-bowel syndrome includes procedures to slow intestinal transit, optimize intestinal function, and increase intestinal surface area. The choice of operation is influenced by intestinal remnant length and caliber and its function. Only a small proportion of patients are candidates for nontransplant procedures, of which intestinal lengthening is most efficacious. Intestinal transplantation, either alone or combined with the liver, is emerging as the most promising therapy in short-bowel syndrome.
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