Small Bowel Transplant |Center for Intestinal Care and Transplant |MedStar Health

Small bowel transplant at the Center for Intestinal Care and Transplant

The Center for Intestinal Care and Transplant at MedStar Health, the only program in the nation's capital and one of only a few Medicare-approved centers nationwide, offers new and successful surgical and medical options for adults and children suffering from disabling and life-threatening intestinal disorders and liver disease. Once considered experimental, intestinal transplantation is now an important surgical therapy.

To learn more, please call 202-444-0766.

About the Center for Intestinal Care and Transplant at MedStar Health

Patients with small bowel disease may need to consider a small bowel transplant or intestinal surgery. In a small bowel transplant, the diseased portion of the small intestine is removed and replaced with a healthy small intestine from a donor. This procedure can be life-saving for patients with irreversible intestinal failure that has become life-threatening. Learn more about small bowel disease.

A team of surgeons in an operating room.

Why choose MedStar Health for my small bowel transplant?

  • Expertise: Our small bowel transplant team performs approximately 20% of all small bowel transplants in the U.S.
  • Teamwork: Our staff displays remarkable teamwork and offers patients the best possible care from a transplant team of different health professionals.

  • Availability A transplant surgeon is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to evaluate organs for potential transplantation.

  • Outcomes: Adult patient one-year survival rate is 79.71%, compared to 77.15% nationally. Pediatric patient one-year survival is 94.12%, in contrast to 84.59% nationally.

Evaluation - small bowel transplant

Evaluation is a necessary stage of the transplant process, as it is used to determine a patient’s eligibility for the procedure. MedStar Health’s intestinal transplant team conducts a thorough evaluation that covers a span of three to five days. During the assessment, the team reviews the patient's medical history, conducts a physical assessment, and performs a series of tests.

Learn more about the small bowel transplant evaluation process.

Small bowel transplant process

During a small bowel transplant, the small intestine is surgically removed and replaced with a healthy organ. The blood vessels of the patient and donor intestine are connected to establish a blood supply to the transplanted intestine. The donor intestine is then linked with the patient's gastrointestinal tract.


An ileostomy is performed to allow body waste to pass directly out of the body and empty into a pouch. It surgically creates an opening through which the ileum, a section of the small intestine, is brought up through the abdominal wall. In time, most patients are able to have the ileostomy closed.

Small bowel transplant recovery

Most small bowel recipients spend several weeks in the hospital. Physicians closely monitor small bowel recipients for signs of organ rejection, infection, or other complications.

Our providers

A team of transplant surgeons from MedStar Georgetown University Hospital pose for a group photo in the operating room.

Expert transplant care

Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our transplant specialists.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is intestinal failure?

    Intestinal failure is the loss of the absorptive capacity of the small bowel. A common cause for children is short gut syndrome, a congenital disorder in which an infant's intestine is too short or underdeveloped to allow normal food digestion. Among other causes are abdominal trauma, Crohn's disease, thrombotic disorders, and surgical adhesions.

  • What causes intestinal failure?

    Intestinal failure can be caused by disease or by trauma, which affects how the intestine absorbs nutrients or moves food through the intestinal tract. If the intestine structure is damaged, or there is a problem with the blood supply to the intestine, a transplant may be necessary to repair the damage and restore proper functioning.

  • What is small bowel transplant and how does it help the patient?

    Small bowel transplant is the transplantation of an intestine to an individual with irreversible intestinal failure. The purpose of this transplant is to restore intestinal function. It is used to treat intestinal failure when other treatments, such as parenteral nutrition (intravenous tube feeding or TPN), are not successful.

  • What are the survival rates for small bowel transplants?

    The three-year survival rate for intestinal transplant patients is 70 percent and greater.

  • How is small bowel transplantation performed?

    Small bowel transplantation can be performed in one of three ways: alone, in combination with the liver or multi-visceral (i.e., with one or more of the following: liver, pancreas, stomach, duodenum, intestine, and colon).

  • How can I qualify for small bowel transplantation?

    The individual must have none of the following for any small bowel transplantation:

    • Life expectancy of fewer than five years due to age-related debilitation and co-morbidities

    • Ability to ingest oral nutrition

    • Unresectable malignancy

    • Serious, uncontrolled psychiatric illness that would hinder following directions with any stage of the transplant process

    • Neurologic illness independent of the disease process being treated

    • Drug or alcohol addiction

    • HIV (positive)

    • Active and/or life-threatening infection

    • Severe body/organ system disease unrelated to transplanted organ

    • Compromised cardio-pulmonary function unrelated to transplanted organ

    • Inability or unwillingness of the individual or legal guardian to give signed consent and to comply with regular follow-up requirements

Patient stories

Additional information

Click here to learn about the small bowel transplantation support group.

How can I qualify for small bowel transplantation?

Our goal is to provide you with all the information you need to undergo a healthy small bowel transplantation process. Our program is based on the patient's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and welcomes the active participation of family members throughout the transplant process.

Transplant clinic lab hours

Monday: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tuesday: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Friday: 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Patient resources

Research & clinical trials

Research is a critical part of what we do at MedStar Health. Learn more about our research on treating and managing advanced disease and transplantation surgery.

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Keeping your organ healthy

The transplant process is a long and complicated one. Now that your healthy small bowel is functioning inside your body, you must assume responsibility for your everyday care.

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