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Short Bowel Syndrome: Tests and Diagnosis

What tests are used to diagnose short bowel syndrome?

Many types of tests are used to help patients manage short bowel syndrome. They include blood and urine tests that monitor patients’ electrolyte, vitamin and mineral levels.

Imaging tests help doctors to see the condition of a patient’s intestines and other internal organs. For example, an Upper GI Series is a set of x-rays taken while a child drinks a liquid barium drink that shows up as white on an x-ray. This lets doctors see the length and width of the intestines and measure the time it takes the drink to pass through the GI tract. Ultrasounds are often used to examine the liver, gallbladder and other abdominal structures.

Endoscopic evaluations including upper intestinal endoscopy and colonoscopy are used in some cases, if more detailed evaluation of the intestine is indicated. These procedures are usually done under anesthesia, so a child doesn’t feel any pain. During an endoscopy or colonoscopy, a doctor will pass a tiny camera through a child’s gastrointestinal tract to look at the different types of tissues.

How do doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado make a diagnosis?

Usually, doctors diagnose short bowel syndrome after an infant or child has undergone intestinal surgery because of an abnormality or trauma. These children are followed closely to make sure they are getting the correct nutrition. For children who did not have surgery but are suspected of having short bowel syndrome, doctors may recommend testing before making a diagnosis.