Disruptive Gastrointestinal Problems Common In Infants and Toddlers

Miranda van Tilburg, PhD Associate Professor of Medicine University of North CarolinaMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Miranda van Tilburg, PhD

Associate Professor of Medicine
University of North Carolina

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. van Tilburg: Functional gastrointestinal disorders are common in children, adolescents and adults but little is known about the prevalence in infants and toddlers.  Functional gastrointestinal disorders in infancy include disorders such as regurgitation, colic, and dyschezia, while functional gastrointestinal disorders in toddlers include functional constipation, functional diarrhea, functional dyspepsia, cyclic vomiting, and rumination. Of these disorders only colic and regurgitation have received much research attention. Prevalence, cause and consequences of most functional gastrointestinal disorders in infants and toddlers are largely unknown. We set out to determine the prevalence in the US by asking a representative sample of mothers to report on their child’s symptoms. Our study found that 27% of infants and toddlers may suffer from a functional gastrointestinal disorder. Among infants, regurgitation was the most common disorder and among toddlers constipation. Despite functional gastrointestinal disorders generally being more prevalent in older girls and adult women, no sex differences were found in this age group. Toddlers who suffer from a functional gastrointestinal disorders had lower quality of life and made more health care visits.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. van Tilburg: These findings indicate that functional gastrointestinal disorders affect more than 1 in 4 infants and toddlers, making it one of the most common disorders in this age group. These disorders have a measurable impact on quality of life and health care visits. Studying these conditions may improve the lives of a significant number of children.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. van Tilburg: These conditions are largely neglected in the scientific literature. For example in the past 15 year studies scientific publications on functional gastrointestinal disorders in children and adolescents have increased rapidly and new discoveries have been made about their causes, consequences and treatment. However, only a handful of studies focus on these disorders in infants and children. The results of the current study indicate that any study in these disorders will impact the lives of many children and their families. Given the paucity in existing research, we need studies on all aspects of these disorders.


Prevalence of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders in Infants and Toddlers
Miranda A.L. van Tilburg, PhD Paul E. Hyman, MD Lynne Walker, PhD Audra Rouster, MD Olafur S. Palsson, PhD Sung Min Kim, BA William E. Whitehead, PhD
The Journal of Pediatrics Available online 31 December 2014



Last Updated on January 6, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD