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J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2003 Sep;37(3):287-93.

Gastrointestinal motility and sensory abnormalities may contribute to food refusal in medically fragile toddlers.

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Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Schneider Children's Medical Center, Petah-Tivqa, Israel.



In chronically ill children who refuse to eat, surgery to correct anatomic problems and behavioral treatments to overcome oral aversion often succeed. A few patients fail with standard treatments. The aims of the study were to: 1) investigate motility and gastric sensory abnormalities and 2) describe treatment that was individualized based on pathophysiology in children who failed surgery and behavioral treatments.


We studied 14 patients (age 1.5-6; mean 2.5; M/F: 7/7). All had a lifelong history of food aversion and retching or vomiting persisting after feeding therapy and fundoplication. All were fed through gastrostomy or gastro-jejunostomy tubes. We studied esophageal and antroduodenal manometry, and gastric volume threshold for retching. We identified when gastric antral contractions were associated with retching and pain. A multidisciplinary treatment program included a variable combination of continuous post-pyloric feedings, drugs to decrease visceral pain, drugs for motility disorders, and behavioral, cognitive, and family therapy. We interviewed parents 2-6 months following testing to evaluate symptoms, mode of feeding and emotional health.


We found a motility disorder alone in 2, decreased threshold for retching alone in 5 and both motility and sensory abnormalities in 7. After treatment, 6 of 14 (43%) began eating orally and 80% had improved emotional health. Retching decreased from 15 episodes per day to an average of 1.4 per day (p <0.01).


Upper gastrointestinal motor and/or sensory disorders contributed to reduced quality of life for a majority of children and families with persistent feeding problems. A multidisciplinary approach improved symptoms and problems in these children

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