Extensive resection of the intestinal tract frequently results in inadequate digestion and/or absorption of nutrients, a condition known as short bowel syndrome (SBS). Several therapies, including parenteral nutrition (PN), bowel rehabilitation, and surgical procedures to reconstruct the bowel, have been used for patients with SBS. However, these treatments only partially correct the underlying problem of reduced bowel function in some patients. This review investigates the results of studies of recombinant human growth hormone (r-hGH) in patients with SBS. In one randomized, controlled and five open-label studies, treatment with r-hGH significantly increased absorption of energy, protein and/or carbohydrates. Four studies also demonstrated significantly increased body weight, lean body mass, total body potassium and/or total body water in response to r-hGH. However, in two other randomized controlled trials, r-hGH had no significant effect on energy or fluid absorption. In one randomized, controlled study and six open-label trials, treatment with r-hGH also allowed a majority of patients, including those with no colon and significant bowel resection, to eliminate or substantially reduce PN. Optimal clinical benefits appear to be achieved when r-hGH is administered in combination with a specialized oral diet and perhaps with glutamine. Although the use of r-hGH to treat SBS patients remains controversial, results from these studies suggest that short-term r-hGH treatment in combination with optimized medical and dietetic treatments can enhance bowel absorption and function and, with the continuation of optimized medical and dietetic treatments, may reduce PN requirements for a wide range of patients with SBS.