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J Pediatr Surg. 2005 May;40(5):755-62.

Neonatal short bowel syndrome: a cohort study.

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  • 1Division of General Surgery, The Research Institute, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1X8.



To date, our knowledge of morbidity and mortality in neonatal short bowel syndrome (SBS) is based on individual case series. Shortcomings of the published literature include long patient recruitment time, selection bias, variable SBS definitions, failure to account for gestational age, and incomplete follow-up. By applying more rigorous methodology, our aim was to determine outcomes of SBS neonates compared with a control group of neonates without SBS.


A cohort study of all neonates with abdominal pathology requiring laparotomy between January 1, 1997, and December 31, 1998, with observation through July 1, 2001. Short bowel syndrome was defined as patients requiring parenteral nutrition for more than 42 days or residual small bowel length of less than 25% predicted by gestational age. Student's t test, Mann-Whitney U test, and chi2 were used where appropriate. Kaplan-Meier curves were used to determine cumulative survival. Covariates important in the development of SBS were examined using forward step-wise logistic regression.


There were 175 patients (with SBS = 40, without SBS = 135) with a mean gestational age of 30.7 +/- 4.6 weeks vs 35.9 +/- 4.8 weeks, respectively (P < .0005). The patients with SBS suffered significantly more morbidity than the group without SBS in all categories of investigation (surgical complications, septic events, central venous line complications, duration to adaptation and parenteral nutrition independence, cholestasis and liver failure, and duration of hospitalization). The case fatality rate was 37.5% in patients with SBS vs 13.3% in patients without SBS (P = .001). Most of the deaths were caused by liver failure or sepsis and occurred within 1 year from the date of surgery. Presence of an ileostomy (exp(B) = 12.29; P < .0005) and a residual small bowel length less than 50% of the original length (exp(B) = 26.84; P < .0005) were the only 2 variables in a logistic regression analysis found to be independently associated with the development of SBS.


This cohort study clearly illustrates the tremendous morbidity experienced by infants with SBS relative to other surgical neonates. Accurate estimates of the morbidity associated with SBS enables clinicians to appropriately counsel parents, allocate resources and initiate therapeutic trials.

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