The small intestine

After passing through the stomach, food enters the four- to five-metre long small intestine, after which it passes into the one-and-a-half-metre long large intestine. The small intestine plays a vital role in digestion and absorbing nutrients into the body. Digestive juices produced by the liver and the pancreas are added to the bolus, neutralizing stomach acids. This breaks down food, allowing carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, salts and micronutrients to be absorbed into the blood. To aid this process, the wall of the small intestine consists of multiple wrinkles and folds, with an overall surface area of approximately 200 square metres.

Medical conditions that may lead to transplantation

Rare congenital defects or major operations in which large sections of the small intestine had to be removed can lead to short bowel syndrome, meaning insufficient nutrient absorption. A transplant may be advisable in such cases. The reaction of the body’s immune system following transplantation of the small intestine is particularly severe: in the past, this meant a relatively short survival rate. However, since the 1990s, medicinal treatments have led to significant improvements in survival rates. Small intestine transplantations are very rarely performed in Switzerland.

More information on this topic: Small intestine transplantation (in german).