ST. LOUIS – Gastrointestinal motility refers to the movement of food through the gastrointestinal passage, from the mouth to the anus. In typical pediatric and adolescent populations, the muscles and nerves of the GI tract work together to move food forward. Then, the body can absorb nutrients and produce undigested waste byproducts.
Any abnormality at any level, muscles, nerves or coordination among them produces abnormal motility which can produce long-standing debilitating symptoms that do not respond to conservative management. Symptoms can include constipation, diarrhea, bloating, abnormal swallowing, distension, pain and sometimes life-threatening symptoms. Dr. Dhiren Patel, a SLUCare Pediatric Gastroenterologist at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital specializes in treating children suffering from these symptoms.
Under his direction, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital is now offering a neurogastrointestinal motility clinic to offer testing for children to best support each individual with motility issues.
The motility clinic is now able to identify GI tract disorders previous not diagnosed with routine imaging, X-rays and labwork, “Altogether this is something that was not offered before and there are only a few centers available to do that and we’re very proud that we`re one of them.”
Historically, motility disorders were not among the list of top diagnoses for pediatricians and gastroenterologists. Primary reasons included lack of good tests and very expensive diagnostic equipment. With time, it became very evident that GI motility issues are more common than it was once thought and with sophisticated advance techniques, we can diagnose and help patients in need. Motility disorders in children are more commonly present from birth as opposed to adults, where they develop over time. Presenting symptoms is also different and could be challenging to diagnose due to children’s inability to describe symptoms properly.
The new testing includes a catheter with several sensors that check if nerve and muscle function in the GI tract is normal. Dr. Patel says that information is then displayed in wave form, “For example, if your child is suffering from long standing constipation or abdominal pain which no one has diagnosed so far motility might be something to look into this.”
With this clinic, the hospital can offer advanced care for infants, children, and teens with a variety of gastrointestinal and liver diseases.
To learn more about the motility clinic at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital click here.
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