Background: Significant bowel lengthening can occur in an isolated intestinal segment with the use of linearly directed distractive forces, resulting in increased surface area and epithelial cell proliferation. We hypothesized that reimplantation of this lengthened intestine into normal jejunum would preserve this gain in intestinal length and function similar to normal jejunum.
Methods: An intestinal lengthening device was inserted into isolated jejunal segments in pigs, and fully expanded over 8 days. Lengthened segments were then reimplanted into normal intestinal continuity. Pigs were studied after another 28 days. Function was assessed by motility, mucosal enzyme activity, barrier function, and intestinal ion transport.
Results: Lengthened segments were significantly longer than control segments and had nearly 2-fold greater surface area. Bowel lengthening was maintained 4 weeks after reimplantation. Motility after reimplantation was similar to nonoperated pigs. Barrier function, mucosal disaccharidase levels, and electrophysiologic measures declined immediately after lengthening but returned to nearly normal levels 28 days after reimplantation.
Conclusion: Bowel lengthening results in a transient decline in mucosal absorptive function and smooth muscle contractility. However, function approaches that of normal bowel after reimplantation into enteric flow. These data may support the use of this technique as a potential new option for the treatment of patients with short bowel syndrome.