This leaflet has been written to help you develop a greater understanding of intestinal failure
This leaflet has been written to help you develop a greater
Movement of fluid and nutrients through the intestine
understanding of intestinal failure. It has been written by
In a person with intestinal failure most of the fluid that is
members of the Intestinal Failure Team at St Mark’s
taken by mouth will not be absorbed and will be passed
Hospital, which is one of 2 centres in the country who
Transit of fluid
straight out of the body. As this happens you will feel
specialise in caring for patients with this condition.
increasingly thirsty because sodium (salt) has been
flushed out and you will become dehydrated.
What is intestinal failure?
Intestinal failure is a rare condition in which:
To stop this happening you have to drink less not
1. The small intestine is unable to digest and absorb the
more. The more you drink the more dehydrated you
Absorption of fluid
2. The body does not reabsorb fluids produced
normally by the intestines, such as digestive juices.
It is important to remember that this only happens to
people with intestinal failure. In a person without
This can lead to problems such as weight loss and
intestinal failure if they feel thirsty and drink more, they
diarrhoea, which can result in malnutrition and
Common causes of intestinal failure
• Removal of a large amount of small intestine
The following diagrams help explain this.
To understand why this happens, it is important to
• Severe disease of, or damage to, the small intestine
consider what happens in a person without intestinal
• Complications following abdominal surgery
• Problems with movement within the intestine
WATER/TEA (low salt drinks)
Some people with intestinal failure may have a stoma (an
opening of the bowel onto the surface of the abdomen) –
it depends on the reason why intestinal failure developed.
The treatment may differ slightly for people who have a
Fluid from your body
moves into your intestine
and is passed out
Eating helps keep the inside lining of your intestine
healthy and is an important social activity.
When you have had a large part of your intestine
removed your body finds it difficult to absorb all the
nutrients you need to keep healthy. You may need to eat
ELECTROLYTE MIX (high salt drink)
a lot more food than you used to. Your dietitian will
It is important that you avoid drinking at meal times, as
this will help your intestine absorb as much as possible
Fluid from your
intestine moves into
the rest of your
Some people with intestinal failure will need to have
extra nutrition in the form of a liquid feed through a tube
into the stomach (enteral nutrition), or liquid feed directly
Please show this leaflet to any other health professionals
Tips to help you take your electrolyte mix
you may come into contact with, i.e. your GP or District
Nurse. You may find that people not used to caring for
patients with intestinal failure give you incorrect advice.
• Flavour with a small
amount of squash or cordial
It is important that you learn to recognise the signs of
Medicines used in the treatment of intestinal failure
An information leaflet for patients
dehydration. You may experience; thirst, reduced urine
output, tiredness, cramps, dizziness on standing up, dry
The medicines prescribed for those with intestinal failure
skin, or notice dark circles under your eyes.
perform one of two functions. They either slow down the
passage of food/drink in the intestines (anti-diarrhoeal
If you become dehydrated you may be advised to drink a
medications), or reduce the amount of fluid produced by
solution containing salt, glucose, and sodium bicarbonate
the intestine (anti-secretory medications). Some of the
(baking soda) known as St Mark’s Electrolyte Mix. It is
most commonly prescribed medications are listed below.
similar to solutions available for people with travellers
diarrhoea (ie, Dioralyte™), only stronger.
St Mark’s Electrolyte Mix
You will need to make up the solution fresh each day
These need to be taken 30-60minutes before food to work
You can buy the powders from any pharmacy and some
supermarkets. They are cheaper to buy than to obtain on
All of the above medication can be taken by mouth
except for Octreotide, which needs to be given by
If you need to get electrolyte mix prescribed please show
your GP this leaflet as they need to prescribe it in the
following way in order for the community pharmacist to
These medications are usually prescribed in much higher
claim for the items and be able to supply them to you.
doses than in someone who does not have intestinal
failure. Your GP will be advised of this.
Rx St Mark’s Electrolyte Mix
If you ever need to seek treatment elsewhere it is
important to let whoever is caring for you know that you
are suffer from intestinal failure and are a patient at St
The Intestinal Failure Team at St Mark’s Hospital are
always happy to advise health care professionals
regarding treatment of intestinal failure
0208 235 4120
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