Intestinal Rehab​ilitation & Transplantation 

The Intestinal Rehabilitation and Transplantation Program at Lurie Children’s is one of the few programs in the nation dedicated to caring for children with an improperly functioning small bowel (small intestine). Intestinal failure occurs when this important part of the digestive system cannot absorb nutrients and fluids. A child with intestinal failure needs long-term nutritional support.

We are committed to avoiding intestinal transplant if possible. Since the program began in 2003, about 90% of our patients have avoided transplant through intestinal rehabilitation. Of those patients, 95% no longer need feeding through a vein (total parenteral nutrition, or TPN). This spares them the cost and possible complications of TPN.

When a child needs an intestinal transplant, our survival rate is well above the national average of 66% at three years. At that time, 100% of our transplant patients are still alive, and the new intestine is doing well (called graft survival). The national average is only about 59% for three-year graft survival.

The Lurie Children’s Difference

Lurie Children’s provides family-centered care, with many support programs. We use a multidisciplinary team approach, which includes the patient and family. You and your child will meet with experts from different healthcare specialties who work together to make up our transplant team.

We also have a strong commitment to clinical and laboratory research. Through research, we find and test new ways of helping children with intestinal failure become healthy. Our lab research includes a study on how intestinal stem cells affect the way the intestine adapts after intestinal resection. Studying this adaptive process could improve patient survival rates.

Clinical research with other medical centers includes a registry and long-term study of children with intestinal failure called the Pediatric Intestinal Failure Consortium. This study is helping doctors better understand liver disease and develop best practices in treatment.

What to Expect

Our team fully evaluates each child with intestinal failure to decide the most effective treatment plan. Your child’s first visit with our team may include:

  • Physical exam and health history
  • Psychosocial (mental and emotional health) assessment
  • Imaging and lab tests as needed
  • Financial needs assessment

The first goal in treatment is to improve intestine function. The Intestinal Rehabilitation Program offers medical, surgical and nutritional treatments to reduce or stop dependence on TPN. Surgical techniques, such as STEP (serial transverse enteroplasty), try to enhance the quality and function of the patient’s intestine by increasing length and volume of the bowel. The goal is to improve the child’s nutrition, growth and development.

Our team provides support and education through all steps of treatment.

If a transplant is the best option, we will place your child on the transplant waiting list. Lurie Children’s is a leader in pediatric transplantation.

Our Specialists

Our team includes doctors who are experts in treating childhood intestinal disease (pediatric gastroenterologists), pediatric transplant surgeons and nurse practitioners. They work closely with pharmacists, nutritionists, social workers and pediatric psychologists to address all of your child’s needs.

The program’s medical director, Valeria Cohran, MD, is a leader in the field of intestinal rehabilitation and is board certified in pediatric gastroenterology and pediatric transplant hepatology. She is an attending physician in Gastroenterology at Lurie Children’s and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The surgical director, Jonathan Fryer, MD, is a transplant surgeon and a pioneer in advancing the treatment of intestinal failure. He is Associate Professor of Surgery-Organ Transplantation at the Feinberg School.

The program is part of the Siragusa Transplantation Center. The center’s co-director, pediatric surgeon Riccardo Superina, MD, performs both intestine transplants and bowel lengthening procedures, such as STEP, for children with short bowel syndrome. He is the Robert E. Schneider Chair in Transplantation at Lurie Children’s and Professor of Surgery at the Feinberg School.

Make an Appointment

Call 1.800.543.7362 (1.800.KIDS DOC®) or 1.312.227.4030 to make an appointment at any of our locations.

You can also use our online resources to request an appointment and learn how to prepare for your appointment​.

Learn More

For more information on our program’s treatments, please view the conditions below.

Related Stories

​Transitioning to Home Care

Almost Home Kids (AHK), now part of the Lurie Children’s family, cares for children with complicated health needs by providing family training, respite care and short-term transitional care in a home-like setting. AHK is staffed with medical professionals and volunteers to make sure every child and their families are prepared for the return home. The Division of Intestinal Rehab​ilitation and Transplantation works closely with Almost Home Kids to make the care transition process as easy as possible. 

Learn more about AHK.