The small bowel, or small intestine, is that part of the gastrointestinal tract that extends between the stomach and large bowel, with a variable length between approximately 3 to 5 metres. The main function of the small bowel is to absorb nutrients, minerals and water.
Removal of a section of the small bowel may be required as an emergency procedure, when it has become blocked or obstructed. Obstruction can result from a variety of causes, including scar tissue (adhesions), hernias and tumours. A lack of blood supply to the bowel may also necessitate emergency small bowel surgery. Tumours of the small bowel are relatively uncommon but may require an elective small bowel operation. Small bowel surgery may be undertaken as a laparoscopic or an open procedure.