Intestinal failure occurs when most of the intestine has to be removed surgically because of blockage of it's blood supply or because of diseases like Crohn's disease. Rarely it can also happen due to diseases which prevent the bowel from absorbing nutrients or due to paralysis of the normal contractions of the intestinal muscles which normally propel the food forward in the intestine.
Treatment of Intestinal Failure
Intestinal failure is normally treated by giving parenteral nutrition (giving carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in an intravenous solution). However intravenous feeding has to be given through a central venous line (an intravenous catheter placed into one of the large veins of the body like the jugular vein or the subclavian vein) and complications develop over a period of time.
Complications of Parenteral Nutrition
The central venous catheter tends to get infected over a period of time. These infections can be life-threatening and require admission to hospital and intravenous antibiotics and removal of the central line.
Over a period of time the central veins get clotted because of the presence of the catheter and it becomes more and more difficult to place a central venous catheter.
Long term parenteral nutrition damages the liver. The liver becomes more and more fatty, then begins to get damaged and scarred and finally develops cirrhosis with liver failure.
Who Needs an Intestinal Transplant?
Why is it so difficult?
An intestinal transplant is certainly the most difficult of the organ transplants, both technically and in terms of management of the patient after the transplant.