Objective: The normal adult human small intestinal length, measured surgically or at autopsy from the duodeno-jejunal flexure, ranges from 275 to 850 cm. The length is generally shorter in women than in men. Patients with a short bowel have often had relatively little bowel resected and the majority of patients are women. We aimed to determine whether patients with a short bowel had a short small intestinal length before any resections.
Patients and methods: In 11 patients (six men and five women) with Crohn's disease and less than 200 cm residual small intestine, both the residual length of small intestine and the amount resected were measured.
Results: Patients had a median of four resections (range 1-5). The median length of small bowel resected was 120 cm (range 60-165 cm) and the medium length of small bowel remaining was 125 cm (range 90-185 cm). Thus, the calculated median original small intestinal length was 240 cm (range 205-315 cm).
Conclusion: Although there may have been some bowel shortening as a result of Crohn's disease, the original small intestinal length before any resections was short. It is therefore more important, after performing a bowel resection, to measure the remaining than the resected bowel length. Patients with Crohn's disease and a short bowel may have had a short but 'normal' small intestinal length before any bowel was resected.