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Blind loop syndrome

Blind loop syndrome occurs when part of the intestine becomes bypassed. Digested food slows or stops moving through part of the intestines. This causes bacteria to grow too much in the intestines and leads to problems in absorbing nutrients.

Causes

The name of this condition refers to the "blind loop" formed by the bypassed intestine. This blind loop does not allow digested food to flow normally through the intestinal tract.

When a section of the intestine is affected by blind loop syndrome, the bile salts needed to digest fats become ineffective. This leads to fatty stools and poor absorption of fat and fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin B12 deficiency may occur because the extra bacteria that develop in this situation use up all of the vitamin.

Blind loop syndrome is a complication that occurs:

Diseases such as diabetes or scleroderma may slow down movement in a segment of the intestine, leading to blind loop syndrome.

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

During a physical examination, the doctor may notice a mass in, or swelling of, the abdomen. Possible tests include:

Treatment

Treatment generally starts with antibiotics for the excess bacteria growth, along with vitamin B12 supplements. If antibiotics don't work, surgery to help the food flow through the intestine may be considered.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Many patients get better with antibiotics. If surgical repair is needed, the outcome is usually very good.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of blind loop syndrome.

Alternative Names

Stasis syndrome; Stagnant loop syndrome

References

Semrad CE. Approach to the patient with diarrhea and malabsorption. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 142.

Update Date: 2/19/2012

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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