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Intestinal failure defined by measurements of intestinal energy and wet weight absorption
  1. P B Jeppesen,
  2. P B Mortensen
  1. Department of Medicine CA-2121, Section of Gastroenterology, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 9, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Dr P B Jeppesen


BACKGROUND AND AIMS Intestinal failure defined by the minimal energy and wet weight absorption required to avoid home parenteral nutrition (HPN) is not well described. Thus the aim of this study was to identify the minimal level of gut function necessary to avoid parenteral support using objective measurements of intestinal function.

METHODS Energy (bomb calorimetry) and wet weight absorption were measured during 48 hour balance studies in 45 HPN patients with intestinal failure and in 44 non-HPN borderline patients with a short bowel or malabsorption exceeding 2 MJ/day.

RESULTS In the non-HPN patients, the lower 5% confidence interval of the absorption of energy was 84% of the basal metabolic rate (BMR, the Harris-Benedict equations), equivalent to 4.9 MJ/day. Wet weight absorption was 1.4 kg/day. The HPN patients absorbed less of either or both. The non-HPN patients absorbed 24–86% (range) of the energy and 23–95% of the wet weight. Absorption in the HPN patients ranged from below 0% (net secretion) in patients with very short bowels to 100% absorption of an insufficient oral intake in patients with pseudo-obstruction. Non-HPN patients who absorbed less than half of their intake avoided HPN by hyperphagia (200–400% of BMR equivalent to 10–24 MJ/day, and 3–7 kg/day of wet weight).

CONCLUSION Intestinal failure was accurately measured as absorption below 1.4 kg/day of wet weight and 84% of the calculated BMR (depending on weight, sex and age), which is equal to 4.9 MJ/day. Intestinal absorption, expressed as a percentage of intake, did not discriminate between patients with and without intestinal failure, except for patients who absorbed less than 25% of their intake.

  • absorption
  • intestinal failure
  • energy
  • wet weight
  • short bowel syndrome
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  • Abbreviations used in this paper:
    basal metabolic rate
    home parenteral nutrition

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    BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and British Society of Gastroenterology