Pyloric Stenosis In Babies – 5 Causes & 6 Symptoms You Should Be Aware Of

Pyloric Stenosis In Babies

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Is your child vomiting more than what is normal for babies? Yes, infants spit up or vomit a lot, but if it gets out of hand, you should take her to a doctor at once. And, as a parent, it might be prudent to learn when your baby’s vomiting becomes a sign of concern. Excessive vomiting can mean your child suffers from pyloric stenosis. But, don’t worry! MomJunction has listed some relevant information on the condition here.

What Is Pyloric Stenosis In Babies?

Pyloric stenosis is a condition that affects an infant’s gastrointestinal tract. It hinders the smooth flow of food from the stomach to the small intestine [1].

Pyloric stenosis causes forceful vomiting and leads to other health problems such as electrolyte imbalance, dehydration and even weight loss [2]. The condition is also known as infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis [3]. It usually occurs in babies three to six weeks after their birth. It is uncommon for babies older than three months to get this condition [4].

[ Read: Common Baby Digestive Problems ]

Causes Of Pyloric Stenosis In Babies:

The enlargement of the pylorus causes pyloric stenosis. The pylorus is a muscle that forms an opening between the stomach and the small intestine. The enlargement of the pylorus narrows the opening and makes it difficult for food to enter the small intestine. But, the causes of pylorus enlargement in infants remain unknown [5].

However, there are several risk factors associated with pylorus stenosis in babies.

  • Pylorus stenosis is more commonly seen in males than females [6].
  • It can also occur due to a family history of the condition.
  • It also occurs more commonly in Caucasian compared with other races.
  • Maternal smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of developing pylorus stenosis [7].
  • Infant use of erythromycin antibiotic (for treating bacterial infections, whooping cough) is known to increase their risks of getting pylorus stenosis [8]. Even maternal use of erythromycin or other antibiotics during late pregnancy or while breastfeeding can cause pylorus stenosis in their babies [9].
  • Excessive acid in the duodenum (beginning of small intestine) and diabetes in babies are other risk factors for pyloric stenosis [10][11]

Symptoms Of Pyloric Stenosis In Babies:

There are many symptoms and signs of pyloric stenosis in babies.

  • Vomiting is the classic sign of pyloric stenosis in infants. The vomiting may project out of an infant’s mouth with force.
  • This is known as projectile vomiting. If your baby begins to vomit more than usual or has episodes of projectile vomiting, you must contact your child’s doctor immediately to determine its cause.
  • Since babies with this condition can’t keep their food down, babies with pyloric stenosis are often hungry.
  • Constant vomiting can cause dehydration in infants. If your baby is lethargic, fussy, urinates infrequently or cries without tears, you may be right in suspecting dehydration as the cause of these signs. Other signs of dehydration may be a sunken spot on the head or sunken eyes.
  • Constipation can also occur with pyloric stenosis since minimal or no food is reaching your baby’s intestines.

[ Read: Constipation In Babies ]

  • Babies with pyloric stenosis may get stomach contractions after their feeding. These wave-like ripples or contractions are known as peristalsis. If you notice such contractions (from top to bottom) across your child’s belly, bring it to the attention of her doctor. These waves occur when the stomach muscles try to force the food down the narrow or blocked passage of the pylorus.
  • With pyloric stenosis, your baby may fail to gain proper weight for her age or experience weight loss.[12]

Diagnosing Pyloric Stenosis In Babies:

There are several ways to diagnose pyloric stenosis in babies.

A physical examination of the baby’s abdomen is the first step in diagnosing pyloric stenosis. During the physical examination, your baby’s doctor may be able to feel the enlarged pylorus. The presence of this lump can indicate pylorus enlargement.

In some cases, the doctor may also recommend the following diagnostic method for pyloric stenosis, such as:

  • An ultrasound to properly look at the pyloric muscle to confirm the diagnosis of the condition.
  • Abdominal X-rays. Or Barium X-rays, which involve the child drinking the barium fluid (a liquid that coats the internal parts of the organs). X-rays then reveal the state of the digestive organs.
  • Blood tests to check for electrolyte imbalance in your child’s body. The electrolytes are minerals in the body (such as chloride, calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, etc.) that carry an electric charge.[13]

[ Read: Acid Reflux In Babies ]

Treating Pyloric Stenosis In Babies:

The only treatment option for pyloric stenosis is surgery, which is known as pyloromyotomy.

Before Surgery:

  • If your child has an electrolyte imbalance or is severely dehydrated, the doctor may first take steps to restore the fluids in her body.

The Procedure:

  • In pyloromyotomy, the cuts on the outside layer of the enlarged pylorus make the inner muscle linings to ease up. This clears the passage for the easy passing of the food from the stomach to the small intestine. The surgery may last an hour or so.
  • The doctor may perform the procedure (under general anesthesia) as a laparoscopy or open surgery. Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgery and more commonly used for a pyloromyotomy. It involves inserting a laparoscope (a thin instrument for viewing) through a tiny cut near your child’s navel.

[ Read: Remedies For Gas Problems In Infants ]

After Surgery:

  • Recovery from laparoscopic surgeries is quicker and easier than most invasive procedures. The surgery itself leaves only a tiny scar on the site of the procedure. Even open surgery recovery may occur within a few days after the procedure.
  • For a few hours post surgery, your baby may be on intravenous fluids. Your child may be able to begin her usual feeding within a day after the surgery.
  • Your child may continue to vomit a few days after the surgery and may also feed more often.
  • You may be able to take your baby home from the hospital within a day or two post her surgery.
  • Infection and bleeding are some potential complications of a pyloromyotomy. However, these complications are rare. In case, your child continues to vomit after the surgery, seems to be in pain, has an infection the surgery site or has a fever, immediately consult her doctor

Talk to your child’s doctor about what to expect after surgery and about her feeding guidelines. Follow the doctor’s recommendations and keep providing loving care to your baby and your child will recover from pyloric stenosis in no time.

Did your child get pyloric stenosis? What line of treatment did you follow? Tell us here.

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