Intestinal Failure

Intestinal failure occurs when the intestines cannot digest food or absorb fluids, electrolytes and nutrients; patients must then receive total parenteral nutrition (TPN), which provides liquid nutrition through a catheter or needle inserted into a vein. The long-term use of TPN can result in conditions that can become life threatening. Preventative measures to avoid these complications are key, and the physicians at Houston Methodist work closely with treating gastroenterologists to implement TPN regimens and ensure that intestinal function is regularly monitored.

Additional causes of intestinal failure include short bowel syndrome (in which surgery for other conditions has caused the bowel to stop functioning), Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel conditions, tumors and congenital malformations (since childhood) of the small bowel. 

Symptoms of Intestinal Failure
Common symptoms of various forms of intestinal failure may include the following:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Drastic weight loss
  • Fever or night sweats

Managing Intestinal Failure
When there is no known cure, for example with Crohn’s disease, your doctor will work with you to follow management goals including induced and maintained remissions, minimize side effects of treatment medications and to improve quality of life. For this and other common causes of intestinal failure, it is important to adhere to medication and dietary conditions prescribed by your health care providers.

Digestive Disorder Research

With access to clinical trials and research (including work performed at the Houston Methodist Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders), our physicians continuously seek new and improved methods to treat the causes of intestinal failure, such as drug trials for intestinal cancers and corticosteroid treatments for inflammation.


Our physicians specialize in managing intestinal failure at the following locations: