Pediatric gastroparesis (gas’tro-pa-re’sis) is a serious medical condition affecting many children. Sadly, very few studies have been done regarding pediatric gastroparesis. Little is know about the causes and there are limited treatments available for children with this condition. For 60 percent of children with gastroparesis, the cause is unknown.
Gastroparesis, also known as delayed gastric emptying, is a condition when the stomach contracts less frequently and not as forcefully as it should. Which causes foods and liquids to remain in the stomach for extended periods at a time. Gastroparesis commonly occurs because of damage to the vagus nerve, which controls the digestive process in the stomach.
Your child may exhibit symptoms of reflux, nausea, vomiting, bloating, stomach spasms, excessive burping/gas, mild abdominal pain. Some of the main and most common symptoms infants and toddler with gastroparesis have include feeling full after only eating a few bites, not feeling hungry even though it has been hours since she last ate, and losing weight.
For many children the cause of their delayed gastric emptying is unknown but for others there are known causes. The most common causes include diabetes, GERD, stomach surgery, viral infection, scleroderma, amyloidosis, Parkinson’s, hypothyroidism, and some narcotic medications.
The symptoms mentioned above may sound similar to other conditions or common toddler phases, leaving many children undiagnosed for many months or even years. The most useful and accurate testing to diagnose gastroparesis is a gastric emptying study. This study is a nuclear medicine x-ray test.
To conduct the test your child will be required to consume a small amount of a radio active substance. It is normally mixed with food or liquid then given to your child. A radiologist will observe your child to determine how long it takes for the food/liquid to leave the stomach.
Gastroparesis is an incurable condition (unless induced my medication) that will require a life long change in diet and lifestyle. The best treatment options include treating an underlying condition if one has been found. It is helpful to avoid foods high in fat and when symptoms are severe avoiding foods high in fiber. There are also medications used to treat severe gastroparesis. The medication work by speeding up the digestive process. In some cases a feeding tube may be necessary. Some physicians find this necessary to ensure the child is receiving adequate nutrition and gaining weight. The feeding tube delivers food directly to the small intestine, bypassing the stomach completely.
Having a child with gastroparesis can be quite a challenge. It is hard seeing your child not eating and feeling nauseas at the sight of food. It can also become frustrating not knowing why your child is not eating or if they are in pain and not knowing how to help. With a proper diagnosis and a team of medical professionals fighting to find a treatment for your child, can make the lifelong journey a bit easier on you and your child.
“Gastroparesis” Nationwide Children’s Hospital