Newborn infants with short bowel syndrome (SBS) represent a high-risk group of developing intestinal failure-associated liver disease (IFALD), which may be fatal. However, infants have a great capacity for intestinal growth and adaptation if IFALD can be prevented or reversed. A major contributing factor to IFALD may be the soybean oil-based intravenous lipid emulsions used since the introduction of parenteral nutrition (PN) 40 years ago.

This retrospective study compares the outcome in 20 neonates with SBS treated with parenteral fish oil (Omegaven) in combination with ω-6/9 lipid emulsions (ClinOleic) with the outcome in a historical cohort of 18 patients with SBS who received a soybean oil-based intravenous lipid emulsion (Intralipid).

Median gestational age was 26 weeks in the treatment group and 35.5 weeks in the historical group. All patients were started on PN containing Intralipid that was switched to ClinOleic/Omegaven in the treatment group at a median age of 39 gestational weeks. In the treatment group, direct bilirubin levels were reversed in all 14 survivors with cholestasis (direct bilirubin >50 umol/L). Median time to reversal was 2.9 months. Only 2 patients died of liver failure (10%). In the historical cohort, 6 patients (33%) died of liver failure, and only 2 patients showed normalization of bilirubin levels.

Parenteral fish oil in combination with ω-6/9 lipid emulsions was associated with improved outcome in premature neonates with SBS. When used instead of traditional soybean-based emulsions, this mixed lipid emulsion may facilitate intestinal adaptation
by increasing the IFALD-free period.