Pyloric stenosis is a fairly rare condition that affects newborns and infants. The muscles of the pylorus, which is at the lower part of the stomach, get thick and stop food from getting into the small intestine. Babies may vomit, become dehydrated, and lose weight. They may seem to always be hungry.
Babies with pyloric stenosis need surgical treatment right away to avoid life-threatening dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Pyloric stenosis happens in about 3 out of every 1,000 births, but surgery can fix the problem.
Signs and Symptoms
Babies with pyloric stenosis may have these symptoms:
- Vomiting, often projectile vomiting in the first 3 - 6 weeks of life. Vomiting may come and go or may happen after each feeding
- Always hungry
- Weight loss
- Few or no bowel movements
- Jaundice, yellowing of the skin and eyes
What Causes It?
No one knows what causes pyloric stenosis. Genetics may be involved.
Who's Most At Risk?
Babies with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for developing pyloric stenosis:
- Baby boys -- much more common in males
- First-born infants
- Most common in Caucasians
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
If your baby has symptoms of pyloric stenosis, take the baby to the doctor or the hospital right away. Your doctor will do a physical examination, check for stomach symptoms, and use ultrasound to see whether the thickness and length of the pyloric muscle are abnormal.
Don't give the antibiotic erythromycin to infants. Babies receiving oral erythromycin may be at higher risk for pyloric stenosis.
Pyloric stenosis is usually fixed with surgery.
Some babies may get better when given atropine sulfate, intravenously (IV) at first and then by mouth.
Surgical and Other Procedures
Usually, pyloric stenosis is fixed with laparoscopic surgery. The surgeon makes a small incision near the baby’s navel and uses a camera and surgical instruments to cut the muscles around the pylorus. Symptoms usually get better about 24 hours after surgery.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Pyloric stenosis is a serious medical condition and should be treated by a medical doctor. Ask your doctor before using any complementary and alternative therapies in an infant.
Making sure that you are eating right and getting enough vitamins and minerals while you are pregnant can help you deliver a healthy baby. Make sure you eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein. Take a prenatal vitamin as directed by your doctor. Tell your health care provider about any herbs and supplements you are using or considering using.
Nutrition and Supplements
Your baby may have lost weight or be undernourished. Ask your doctor how to best help your baby get the nutrients he needs after his pyloric stenosis has been treated.
If you are breastfeeding, make sure you eat a healthy diet so that the benefits are passed on to your baby. The following nutritional tips may help a breastfeeding mother:
- Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes), and vegetables (such as squash).
- Eat foods high in B-vitamins and calcium, such as almonds, beans, whole grains (if no allergy is present), dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), and sea vegetables.
- Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and especially sugar.
- Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, tofu (soy, if no allergy is present) or beans for protein.
- Use healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants, alcohol, and tobacco.
- Drink plenty of water daily.
Probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus), 5 - 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) a day, can help maintain good gastrointestinal health. Refrigerate your probiotic supplements for best results. If you are breastfeeding, ask your doctor before taking probiotics, and whether your baby would also benefit from taking probiotics. Always ask your doctor before giving your child any dietary supplements.
There are no herbs that can treat pyloric stenosis. Pyloric stenosis needs conventional medical care. If you want to use herbs to help your baby recover from surgery, ask your pediatrician which herbs might help. Do not give any herbs to your child without asking your doctor first.
Surgery is generally needed to cure pyloric stenosis, but a professional homeopath may use one of the following remedies to treat the vomiting associated with this condition. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.
- Arsenicum album -- for vomiting immediately following ingestion of food or drink
- Bryonia -- for people whose stomachs are sensitive to touch but may experience relief from lying on the stomach
- Phosphorus -- for excessive vomiting immediately following ingestion of food or drink
- Silicea -- for vomiting after drinking milk (including breast milk) in those who have a delicate constitution and are slow to develop
Touch is an important part of infant well-being. Gently stroking baby’s hands and feet may reduce stress and be soothing to your baby, especially when he is in the hospital.
Your baby needs quick emergency treatment to avoid life-threatening fluid and electrolyte imbalance. If found quickly, the prognosis for recovery and improved growth is very good. Possible complications include vomiting that continues after surgery, gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach), hiatal hernia, or another obstruction.
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Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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