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When the intestine can no longer properly absorb nutrients and move ingested food through the body, an intestine transplant may be a lifesaving option. Most children who are candidates for transplant are experiencing intestinal failure. They may already have had portions of their intestines removed, while other organs such as the liver, stomach, pancreas and kidneys are healthy.
An intestine transplant is used to treat these conditions:
Many intestine transplant patients are premature infants whose intestines are removed after birth due to poor blood flow. These children grow and develop with parenteral nutrition (IV feeding) and often receive an intestine transplant when they are about 10 months old.
An intestine transplant includes removing the small intestine and about one-third of the large intestine. Those organs are then replaced with donor organs. The operation takes between four to six hours to perform.
The specially trained transplant surgeons at IU Health Transplant at Riley Children's Health carefully evaluate if an intestine transplant will improve a child's quality of life before placing the child on the transplant waiting list. Your child's surgeon will order extensive medical testing to ensure intestine transplant is the best treatment option. The evaluation may include:
Your child’s surgeon will also have you meet with a transplant social worker to ensure a strong family support system exists to help provide the care and assistance your child will need after the transplant.
If the medical evaluation shows intestine transplant to be the best treatment option, your child will be placed on the national transplant waiting list, which is managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Your family will meet with the transplant team to learn about all aspects of the transplant process. The team includes pediatric specialists in transplant surgery, gastroenterology, hepatology, radiology, pathology, pharmacy, and social work. Your child's transplant team also will include a transplant nurse coordinator and a dietitian. You will meet regularly with the transplant nurse coordinator who will work with you to ensure the best care and recovery for your child before and after the transplant.
The intestine transplant team will:
Donated organs work best when they are transplanted as soon as possible. You can expect the transplant team to notify you to come to the hospital right away once an intestine that is a match for your child becomes available.
You can expect the following prior to your child’s liver transplant operation:
You can expect the following on the day of your child’s intestine transplant operation:
You can expect the following immediately after surgery:
Below are some additional guidelines for when you return home:
Intestine transplants provide good outcomes for severely ill children. Five-year survival rates are between 60 and 70 percent. Many children are able to return to school and other normal activities after their recovery period.