Gastrointestinal Motility in Infants and Children

Gastrointestinal motility is defined by the movements of the digestive system and and the transit of the contents within it. When the function of the nerves or muscles in the digestive tract is disturbed, the child develops symptoms related to motility problems.  Some common conditions:

Regurgitation

Regurgitation is defined as the passage of refluxed gastric content into the throat whilst vomiting is defined as expulsion of refluxed gastric content from the mouth. The frequency regurgitation varies with age, with infants up to the first month being more frequently affected.  Most infants are happy and healthy even if they frequently spit up or vomit.

Infant Colic

Infant Colic is defined as excessive crying for more than three hours a day at least three days a week for at least one week in an otherwise healthy baby.  It is most frequently observed in neonates and infants aged two weeks to four months. Infant colic is diagnosed in as many as up to 26% of infants, making the condition on of the most common reason for visits to paediatricians and family practitioners. Infant colic usually disappears when the child has reached the age of four months.

Constipation

The prevalence of constipation ranges from 7-30% in both western and non-western countries.  In 90-95% of children no organic cause is found.  For many children the problems are long-term and studies have shown that 30% of children beyond puberty continue to struggle with constipation symptoms such as infrequent, painful evacuation of stools and faecal incontinence.

Functional abdominal pain (FAP)

Long lasting intermittent or constant abdominal pain without evidence of an organic cause is defined as functional abdominal pain.  It affects 10-20% of all school-aged children and is one of the most common complaints of children and adolescents visiting a paediatric gastroenterologist.