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Small bowel transplant, as the name clearly suggests, is a surgical procedure that aims at removing and replacing the diseased or dysfunctional small intestine of a patient with a healthy intestine taken from a suitable donor. Intestinal transplant in India is offered at very few hospitals, as the procedure is quite complex and requires immense specialization. Undergoing the procedure can help the patient to lead a quality life although you will be required to go for regular medical assessments and take anti-rejection medication for the rest of your life.

Why do you need a small bowel transplant?

When do we usually replace something? When it becomes dysfunctional, isn't it? The same holds for your organs as well. When any organ, like the heart, liver, kidneys or lungs seize to perform their function, you will need to get it replaced. The same thing happens when your small intestine fails to function efficiently. Now, there can be many reasons why your small intestine is not functioning efficiently. The condition is commonly referred to as bowel failure and is marked by the inability of the intestine to absorb nutrients from the food that you eat. Two of the most common causes of bowel failure are short bowel syndrome and non-functional bowel.

Short bowel syndrome is a condition in which a large section of the small intestine is missing due to any of the following:

  • A congenital defect like gastroschisis, in which the intestine develops outside the baby's body
  • Volvulus, a condition in which the bowel becomes twisted
  • Necrotising enterocolitis, in which affection of the small intestine dies due to a lack of oxygenated blood supply
  • Undergoing bowel resection for treating conditions like Crohn's disease and bowel cancer.

Patients suffering from the condition are most likely to need TPN or total parental nutrition. However, experts specialising in intestinal transplants in Mumbai suggest that giving TPN for a long period of time can give rise to several complications, some of which can pose a serious threat to the patient's life. There might not be any suitable vein left to insert the catheter or a severe infection at the insertion site. The same has also been associated with serious liver ailments.

Are you eligible for a transplant?

Before undergoing any surgical or medical procedure it is very important to confirm that you are eligible for the same as it can otherwise lead to many complications which can be more threatening than the disease itself. Undergoing an intestinal transplant assessment will how to make sure that you are perfectly fit for the transplant and if the doctor feels that there is any problem that needs to be addressed prior to the procedure, the same can be addressed to lower any complications. It is important to understand that the assessment period may last for around 1 to 3 weeks during which you will be required to undergo a series of tests, which include:

  • Blood tests to assess the functioning of your kidneys and liver, as well as to check the electrolyte balance.
  • A blood test may also be done to look for any traces of serious infections like HIV and hepatitis.
  • Tests like x-ray, CT scan and ultrasound, to scan the abdomen and assess the extent of the damage.
  • Colonoscopy, which is done with the help of a colonoscope, a long flexible tube fitted with a camera and a light source on one of its ends, which helps to generate detailed images of the small intestine
  • LFT or lung function test, to make sure that your lungs are strong enough to cope with the surgery.

You may not be considered eligible for the surgical procedure if:

  • You have a malignancy that has metastasized to various different parts of your body
  • You have a serious disease with a very poor prognosis despite trying all kinds of treatments
  • Your lungs are not healthy enough and you require breathing support or a ventilator to meet your daily oxygen requirements
  • You are above 60 years of age

What happens after the transplant?

Once you have been considered fit for the transplant and the procedure has been done, your major focus should be on rehabilitation and recovery. It may take months and as such, you have to be extremely patient and follow all the guidelines recommended by your doctor. Normally the patients undergoing bowel transplants are discharged within a month. You will be required to take immunosuppressive medication to alleviate the risks of organ rejection which happens to be a major complication of any organ transplant. It is important to go for regular assessments and stay in touch with your doctor to make sure that he/she is well aware of your prognosis.

To know more about intestine transplants, consult the experts from the best hospital in India today.