The management of patients with intestinal failure due to short bowel syndrome (SBS) is complex, requiring a comprehensive approach that frequently necessitates long-term, if not life-long, use of parenteral nutrition (PN). Despite tremendous advances in the provision of PN over the past three decades, which have allowed significant improvements in the survival and quality of life of these patients, this mode of nutritional support carries with it significant risks to the patient, is very costly and, ultimately, does not attempt to improve the function of the remaining bowel. Intestinal rehabilitation refers to the process of restoring enteral autonomy and, thus, allowing freedom from parenteral nutrition, usually by means of dietary, medical, and, occasionally, surgical strategies. While recent investigations have focused on the use of trophic substances to increase the absorptive function of the remaining gut, whether intestinal rehabilitation occurs as a consequence of enhanced bowel adaptation or is simply a result of an optimized, comprehensive approach to the care of these patients remains unclear. In Part 1 of this review, an overview of SBS and pathophysiological considerations related to the remaining bowel anatomy in these patients will be provided. Additionally, a review of intestinal adaptation and factors that may enhance the adaptive process, focusing on evidence derived from animal studies, will also be discussed. In Part 2, relevant data on the development of intestinal adaptation in studies involving humans will be reviewed as will the general management of SBS. Lastly, the potential benefits of a multidisciplinary intestinal rehabilitation program in the care of these patients will also be discussed.
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