Definition

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.

How common is pyloric stenosis?

Pyloric stenosis is an uncommon condition. 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. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of pyloric stenosis?

The common symptoms of pyloric stenosis are:

  • Vomiting after feeding. The baby may vomit forcefully, ejecting breast milk or formula up to several feet away (projectile vomiting). Vomiting might be mild at first and gradually become more severe as the pylorus opening narrows. The vomit may sometimes contain blood.
  • Persistent hunger. Babies who have pyloric stenosis often want to eat soon after vomiting.
  • Stomach contractions. You may notice wave-like contractions (peristalsis) that ripple across your baby’s upper abdomen soon after feeding, but before vomiting. This is caused by stomach muscles trying to force food through the narrowed pylorus.
  • Your baby might cry without tears or become lethargic. You might find yourself changing fewer wet diapers or diapers that aren’t as wet as you expect.
  • Changes in bowel movements. Since pyloric stenosis prevents food from reaching the intestines, babies with this condition might be constipated.
  • Weight problems. Pyloric stenosis can keep a baby from gaining weight, and sometimes can cause weight loss.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if your baby:

  • Projectile vomits after feeding
  • Seems less active or unusually irritable
  • Urinates much less frequently or has noticeably fewer bowel movements
  • Isn’t gaining weight or is losing weight

Causes

What causes pyloric stenosis?

The causes of pyloric stenosis are unknown, but genetic and environmental factors might play a role. Pyloric stenosis usually isn’t present at birth and probably develops afterward.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for pyloric stenosis?

There are many risk factors for pyloric stenosis, such as:

  • Pyloric stenosis is seen more often in boys — especially firstborn children — than in girls.
  • Pyloric stenosis is more common in Caucasians of northern European ancestry, less common in African-Americans and rare in Asians.
  • Premature birth. Pyloric stenosis is more common in babies born prematurely than in full-term babies.
  • Family history. Studies found higher rates of this disorder among certain families. Pyloric stenosis develops in about 20 percent of male descendants and 10 percent of female descendants of mothers who had the condition.
  • Smoking during pregnancy. This behavior can nearly double the risk of pyloric stenosis.
  • Early antibiotic use. Babies given certain antibiotics in the first weeks of life — erythromycin to treat whooping cough, for example — have an increased risk of pyloric stenosis. In addition, babies born to mothers who took certain antibiotics in late pregnancy also may have an increased risk of pyloric stenosis.
  • Bottle-feeding. Some studies suggest that bottle-feeding rather than breast-feeding can increase the risk of pyloric stenosis. Most people in these studies used formula rather than breast milk, so it isn’t clear whether the increased risk is related to formula or the mechanism of bottle-feeding.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

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 pyloric stenosis 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.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage pyloric stenosis?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: December 6, 2017 | Last Modified: December 6, 2017

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