About small bowel donation

The small bowel (or small intestine) is part of your your digestive system, and despite its name is actually about six metres long. 

It further digests food recieved from the stomach, absorbing vital nutrients before sending what remains on to the large intestine, or colon.

Nutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals and are needed by the body to perform its basic functions.

Choosing to donate your small bowel could transform the life of someone waiting on the organ transplant list.

A cartoon image of a small bowel

Why do some people need a small bowel transplant?

If a person's bowel is unable to absorb nutrients, they may need their nutrition to be given through a drip (straight into a vein).

Sometimes, if this is not possible or if complications develop, a small bowel transplant may be the best option.

Complications that may lead to a small bowel transplant include:

  • short bowel syndrome (also known as short gut syndrome) – when part of the small bowel is missing, removed or damaged
  • extensive and unresponsive Crohn's disease – this can cause inflammation of the lining of the digestive system
  • some digestive disorders
Carton illustration of the small and large intestines with a group of clinicians standing by
Illustration showing the small bowel shown in yellow, and the colon in pink.

Why become a small bowel donor?

Choosing to donate your small bowel when you die could provide a life-changing transplant for someone living life on a drip.

After receiving a small bowel transplant, most people are able to switch from being drip-fed to eating normally and can resume everyday activities.

Most people can become small bowel donors

Anyone can register a decision to become a small bowel donor after death, there is no age limit.

There are also very few health conditions where organ donation is ruled out completely. 

Get more information about who can become an organ donor

How to become a small bowel donor

If you would like to help others after you die by becoming a small bowel donor, the best thing to do is to add your name and decision to the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Act now to change lives in the future.

Why register?

Find out why it's really important that you do.

Talk to your loved ones

Organ donation will only go ahead with the support of your family, and clinicians will never proceed with organ donation if your family or loved ones object.

Get tips on how to talk to your loved ones about organ donation

Find out more about how you could make a difference.

More about organ donation