The nature of the gastrointestinal injury following bone marrow transplantation and its clinical and nutritional sequelae are poorly defined. Prospective assessments of gastrointestinal function, nutritional status, and wellbeing were therefore carried out in 47 consecutive patients (28 males, 19 females; mean age 8.4 years) undergoing bone marrow transplant. 31 diarrhoeal episodes (median duration 9.5 days) occurred in 27 patients at a median of 10 days after transplantation. Ninety one per cent of episodes were associated with protein losing enteropathy. Protein losing enteropathy was more severe in graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) comparing with other causes. It led to a substantial fall in serum albumin and there was a negative correlation between faecal alpha 1-antitrypsin concentrations and serum albumin. Transient pancreatic insufficiency developed in 18 patients, and pancreatitis in one. Intestinal permeability was normal in 12 patients who had no diarrhoea during the conditioning treatments. Diarrhoeal patients had a significantly greater decrease in nutritional status and wellbeing than patients without diarrhoea. Gastrointestinal injury following bone marrow transplantation is thus complex. Severe protein losing enteropathy in this context suggests the presence of GVHD.
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