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Pyloric Stenosis

Topic Overview

What is pyloric stenosis?

Pyloric stenosis is a problem with a baby’s stomach that causes forceful vomiting. It happens when the baby's pylorus, which connects the stomach and the small intestine, swells and thickens. This can keep food from moving into the intestine.

A baby may get pyloric stenosis anytime between birth and 5 months of age. Boys are more likely than girls to get it. It usually starts about 3 weeks after birth. If your baby was born early (premature), symptoms may start later.

What causes pyloric stenosis?

Experts don't know what causes pyloric stenosis. It may be passed down through families.

What are the symptoms?

A baby with pyloric stenosis may:

  • Vomit soon after a feeding.
  • Have a full, swollen upper belly after a feeding.
  • Act fussy and hungry a lot of the time.
  • Have fewer and harder stools than normal.
  • Pass less urine than normal.

Vomiting usually starts gradually. As the pylorus becomes tighter, the vomiting may become more frequent and more forceful.

As the vomiting continues, your baby may:

  • Lose weight.
  • Become dehydrated.
  • Be sleepier than normal and very fussy when awake.

How is pyloric stenosis diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your baby's symptoms. If your baby has pyloric stenosis, the doctor may be able to feel a small lump in the upper part of the belly.

In some cases your baby may need imaging tests, such as an upper GI (gastrointestinal) series or an abdominal ultrasound. Your baby also may need blood tests to see if he or she is dehydrated.

How is it treated?

Pyloric stenosis is treated with surgery to widen the opening between the stomach and the small intestine. Surgery rarely causes problems, and almost all babies recover completely. After surgery, your baby probably won't get pyloric stenosis again.

Your baby likely will be ready to go home within 2 days after surgery. Being involved in your baby's care while he or she is in the hospital may help you feel more comfortable when you take your baby home. Talk with the doctor about how to feed your baby and what to expect. It's normal to feel nervous, but don't be afraid to hold and handle your baby.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

HealthyChildren.org
141 Northwest Point Boulevard
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Phone: (847) 434-4000
Web Address: www.healthychildren.org
 

This American Academy of Pediatrics website has information for parents about childhood issues, from before the child is born to young adulthood. You'll find information on child growth and development, immunizations, safety, health issues, behavior, and much more.



American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Boulevard
Elk Grove Village, IL  60007-1098
Phone: (847) 434-4000
Fax: (847) 434-8000
Web Address: www.aap.org
 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers a variety of educational materials about parenting, general growth and development, immunizations, safety, disease prevention, and more. AAP guidelines for various conditions and links to other organizations are also available.



American College of Gastroenterology
6400 Goldsboro Road
Suite 200
Bethesda, MD 20817
Phone: (301) 263-9000
Web Address: http://patients.gi.org
 

The American College of Gastroenterology is an organization of digestive disease specialists. The website contains information about common gastrointestinal problems.



KidsHealth for Parents, Children, and Teens
Nemours Home Office
10140 Centurion Parkway
Jacksonville, FL 32256
Phone: (904) 697-4100
Web Address: www.kidshealth.org
 

This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.



References

Other Works Consulted

  • Greenup RA, Calkins CM (2011). Infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph’s Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 1420–1421. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Hunter AK, Liacouras CA (2011). Pyloric stenosis and other congenital anomalies of the stomach. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 1274–1276. Philadelphia: Saunders.
  • Middlesworth W, Kadenhe-Chiweshe A (2006). Neonatal intestinal obstruction. In FD Burg et al., eds., Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th ed., pp. 289–293. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
  • Semrin MG, Russo MA (2010). Anatomy, histology, embryology, and developmental anomalies of the stomach and duodenum. In M Feldman et al., eds., Sleisenger and Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 9th ed., vol. 1, pp. 773–788. Philadelphia: Saunders.
  • Sundaram S, et al. (2011). Gastrointestinal tract. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 20th ed., pp. 595–630. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Brad W. Warner, MD - Pediatric Surgery
Last Revised December 9, 2011

Last Revised: December 9, 2011

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