Page header image

Pyloric Stenosis

What is pyloric stenosis?

Pyloric stenosis is a problem with the lower part of a newborn baby’s stomach. It can make it hard for the baby to keep food down.

Other terms for this problem are infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis or gastric outlet obstruction.

What is the cause?

Pyloric stenosis happens when the passage at the lower part of the stomach (called the pylorus) is too narrow for milk to pass through into the small intestine. Normally, the muscle at the end of the stomach contracts to keep food in the stomach and then the muscle relaxes to let food out of the stomach. When a child has pyloric stenosis, the muscle is too big and doesn't relax well.

Doctors don’t know why the muscle gets large and doesn’t relax well. Firstborn boys are more likely to have this problem. It also tends to run in families.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of pyloric stenosis generally start around 3 weeks of age. They include:

  • Vomiting that is forceful and frequent. The vomited breast milk or formula may come forcefully from the baby’s mouth in an arc, sometimes over a distance of several feet (projectile vomiting)
  • Small or infrequent bowel movements, green diarrhea, or mucus in bowel movements
  • Weight loss or no weight gain
  • Stomach contractions that cause waves that you can see move across the baby’s belly as the baby’s stomach tries to empty itself

How is it diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of the baby's belly
  • An upper GI barium exam, which uses X-rays and a special liquid swallowed by your baby to show pictures of the stomach

How is it treated?

Your baby will need an operation called a pyloromyotomy. During the surgery, your child’s healthcare provider will cut through the thickened muscle between the stomach and small intestine. This will loosen the muscle so that food will be able to pass more easily into the small intestine.

Babies can usually eat soon after the surgery.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your child’s test results
  • How long it will take for your child to recover
  • What activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-02-08
Last reviewed: 2013-02-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
Page footer image