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The intestine is a muscular tube which extends from the lower end of your stomach to your anus, the lower opening of the digestive tract. It is also called the bowel or bowels. Food and the products of digestion pass through the intestine, which is divided into two sections called the small intestine and the large intestine.
The small intestine is made up of three segments, which form a passage from your stomach (the opening between your stomach and small intestine is called the pylorus) to your large intestine:
By the time food reaches your small intestine, it has already been broken up and mashed into liquid by your stomach. Each day, your small intestine receives between one and three gallons (or six to twelve liters) of this liquid. The small intestine carries out most of the digestive process, absorbing almost all of the nutrients you get from foods into your bloodstream. The walls of the small intestine make digestive juices, or enzymes, that work together with enzymes from the liver and pancreas to do this.
Looking at the small intestine as a pipe, it seems hard to believe that an organ so narrow could do such a big job. However, looks can be deceiving. The absorptive surface area of the small intestine is actually about 250 square meters (almost 2,700 square feet) – the size of a tennis court! How is this possible? The small intestine has three features which allow it to have such a huge absorptive surface area packed into a relatively small space:
Although the small intestine is narrower than the large intestine, it is actually the longest section of your digestive tube, measuring about 22 feet (or seven meters) on average, or three-and-a-half times the length of your body.
Your large intestine is about five feet (or 1.5 meters) long. The large intestine is much broader than the small intestine and takes a much straighter path through your belly, or abdomen. The purpose of the large intestine is to absorb water and salts from the material that has not been digested as food, and get rid of any waste products left over. By the time food mixed with digestive juices reaches your large intestine, most digestion and absorption has already taken place.
What's left is mainly fiber (plant matter which takes a long time to digest), dead cells shed from the lining of your intestines, salt, bile pigments (which give this digested matter its color), and water. In the large intestine, bacteria feed on this mixture. These helpful bacteria produce valuable vitamins that are absorbed into your blood, and they also help digest fiber. The large intestine is made up of the following parts:
Learn more about Intestine Transplant Disease States.
To make a referral to the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for an intestine transplant, contact our referral transplant coordinators:
Office hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Emergency referrals are accepted 24 hours a day at 877-640-6746.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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Interested in giving to Children's Hospital? Support the hospital by making a donation online, joining our Heroes in Healing monthly donor program, or visiting our site to learn about the other ways you can give back.