Energy absorption from a liquid test meal, intestinal transit rate and water and sodium output over a six hour period were measured in five patients with an ileostomy and 12 patients with the short bowel syndrome, five of whom were on longterm parenteral nutrition. The proportion of total energy absorbed was greatest in the ileostomists (median 87%, range 82-92%), less in short bowel patients not on parenteral nutrition (median 67%, range 59-78%, p less than 0.01) and least in the short bowel group who needed it (median 27%, range 2-63%, p less than 0.01). Transit rate was more rapid in the short bowel patients compared with the ileostomists. A close correlation was observed between percentage energy absorption and the dry weight of the stools/stoma effluent collected during the six hour test period (r = -0.99, p less than 0.001). This simple non-invasive test quantitates the degree of intestinal failure and may be of practical help in management.
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