Small bowel

Information about small bowel transplantation in the UK

COVID-19: see our advice for clinical staff involved in facilitating organ and tissue donation and transplantation in the UK.

Small bowel transplantation is an option for patients with chronic intestinal failure for whom long term parenteral nutrition is no longer a viable option. This can occur due to severe or recurrent intravenous catheter infections or liver failure. There are a very small number of nationally-funded small bowel transplant units in the UK, specialising either in adult or paediatric small bowel transplants.

In the UK, small bowel transplants can consist of one of the following: the small bowel alone, the small bowel and liver or complex multivisceral and composite transplants implanting a cluster of abdominal organs in the same major operation. Historically, the results of small bowel transplantation were very poor compared with other transplantable organs, but advances in preservation techniques, immunosuppression and small bowel surveillance methods have greatly improved outcomes to the point where they are comparable to lung transplants.

This section of the site describes aspects of small bowel and multivisceral and composite transplantation in the UK, and the role of NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) in facilitating these programmes.

NHSBT is supported by clinical input from members of the Multi-visceral and Composite Tissue Advisory Group, which has representatives of all small bowel transplant centres and from intestinal failure services, paediatric gastroenterology and intensive care.