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Dig Liver Dis. 2004 Jan;36(1):46-55.

Survival rate and prognostic factors in patients with intestinal failure.

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Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, Internal Medicine A and Rehabilitation Gastroenterology, University of Verona, Policlinico G.B. Rossi, Piazz. le L.A. Scuro, 37134 Verona, Italy.



Intestinal failure impairs nutritional status and survival expectance. Though intestinal adaptation and enteral independence may be achieved, artificial nutrition is needed in about half of the patients.


This study is aimed at assessing the causes of death, survival rate, enteral independence in time, and factors affecting the clinical outcome in a group of patients with intestinal insufficiency.


Sixty-eight patients with intestinal insufficiency, due to major intestinal resection in 60 cases (short bowel syndrome) (remnant intestine length 101-150 cm in 31 cases, 50-100 cm in 23 cases, <50 cm in 6 cases), and due to chronic idiopathic pseudo-obstruction in 8 cases, were enrolled and followed-up for (median) 36 months (25th and 75th percentile in 12 and 60 months, respectively). In 60 short bowel syndrome patients, the main conditions that led to intestinal failure were ischemic bowel (28), major surgery complications or severe adhesions (17), radiation enteritis (10), Chron's disease, intestinal tuberculosis, small bowel lymphoma and trauma (others).


Seventeen variables age, underlying disorders, length of remnant bowel, type of surgery, hospital stay, type of nutrition (hospital and home) and its variations in time, causes of death, survival rate and time were considered. Statistical analysis was carried out by Mann-Whitney U-test, Pearson chi2, Spearman correlation test, Kaplan-Meyer method and Cox's proportion hazards regression model.


At the time of admission to the hospital, none of the patients had nutritional independence, 54 (79.4%) were on parenteral nutrition and 14 (20.6%) were on enteral nutrition. At the time of discharge, 23 (33.8%) patients showed enteral independence, 39 were on home parenteral nutrition, 3 on enteral nutrition + i.v. feeding, 1 on enteral nutrition, and 2 needed oral supplementation with hydroelectrolyte solutions only. After a median value of 36 months, 30 and 2 patients were on home parenteral nutrition and enteral nutrition + i.v. feeding, respectively, 2 on enteral nutrition, 2 on oral supplementation with hydroelectrolyte solutions, and 26 cases reached enteral independence. A significant relationship was detected between the length of remnant bowel and types of nutrition at both admission (r = 0.38; P = 0.001) and discharge (r = 0.48; P = 0.001), parenteral nutrition being more frequent in patients with very short bowel. Twenty-two patients (32.4%) died (4 from newly occurring malignancies), 40 (58.8%) survived, and 6 (8.8%) were lost to the follow-up. Eleven of 22 patients died from conditions related to intestinal failure (8 cases) and/or home parenteral nutrition complications (3 cases). At 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 and 72 months, survival rates were 95.4, 93.3, 88.1, 78.6, 78.6 and 65.5%, respectively, but it was significantly lower for patients with <50 cm of remnant bowel than those with longer residual intestine (P < 0.05), and in patients who started home parenteral nutrition above the age of 45 years (P < 0.02). Survival rate was higher in patients with enteral independence than those with enteral dependence (P < 0.05). Better survival rates were registered in patients with chronic obstructive intestinal pseudo-obstruction and major surgery complications, whereas ischemic bowel and even more radiation enteritis were associated with a lower survival expectance.


Actuarial survival rate of patients with intestinal failure quotes 88 and 78% at 3 and 5 years, respectively. It is influenced by the length of remnant intestine, age at the start of home parenteral nutrition, enteral independence and, to some extent at least, by the primary disorder. Enteral independence can be achieved in time by about 40% of the patients with intestinal insufficiency, but for home parenteral nutrition-dependent cases, intravenous feeding can be stopped in less than one out of five patients during a median 3-year period.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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