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 Nutrient absorption
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
will become.
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
High output
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
Low output
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 UNDERSTANDING
you may come into contact with, i.e. your GP or District Nurse. You may find that people not used to caring for INTESTINAL FAILURE
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. Anti-diarrhoeal medication
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 Anti-secretory medications
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 Watford Road
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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