Series of Conditions Involving Gastrointestinal Tract

Gastrointestinal (GI) issues – including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – in children can arise from several conditions, including food allergies, genetic disorders and structural abnormalities of the digestive tract.

At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, we work with patients and their families to uncover the root causes of your child’s GI problems and implement a sound treatment plan, including lifestyle changes and medication. Our team evaluates and manages various issues affecting the digestive tract, liver and pancreas in infants, children and adolescents.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Symptoms of a GI disorder can vary from child to child; however, the following symptoms could indicate a GI issue:

  • Belly pain
  • Bloody stools
  • Constipation
  • Cramps
  • Eye swelling
  • Feeling that you need to pass stool
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Slow pediatric growth
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Watery diarrhea

Your child’s first visit will include a physical evaluation and medical history by one of our pediatric gastroenterologists. Our GI team will learn more about your child’s symptoms and lifestyle, including diet and current medications. The gastroenterologist might also order diagnostic tests to help determine the source of your child’s GI problems.

Diagnostic testing for pediatric GI issues include:

  • Endoscopic procedures: your child’s gastroenterologist will use a thin tube with a camera to see the inside lining of the digestive tract
  • pH probe: a small tube inserted through the patient’s nostril that measures the amount of acid that flows into the esophagus from the stomach during a 24-hour period
  • Liver biopsy: a surgery that removes a small amount of liver tissue so our team can examine it for damage or disease

The outcome for patients with GI disorders is positive with ongoing, dedicated medical care.

Our Experts in Care

The pediatric gastroenterologists at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital are committed to providing patients with comprehensive, multidisciplinary digestive tract care.

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Why Choose Penn State Health Children’s Hospital for Care

Comprehensive Pediatric Digestive Care

At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, our GI experts see a variety of digestive problems, including:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Failure to thrive
  • Feeding difficulty
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hepatitis
  • Jaundice

No matter what issue your child is struggling with, the experts at our pediatric outpatient GI clinic can help.

Pediatric GI Treatments

At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, our specialists work with patients and their families to determine the source of the GI problem. Together, we will create an effective treatment plan that fits with your child’s lifestyle, which often includes medications and activity modifications.

Specialized IBD Care

A common digestive problem in children is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a disorder characterized by inflammation of all or part of the gastrointestinal tract. While doctors don’t know exactly what causes IBD, we do know that environmental, genetic and immune factors all seem to contribute to the disease.

If your child is diagnosed with IBD, treatment will typically involve medication or surgery. Pediatric IBD medications include:

  • Amino salicylates (anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Antibiotics
  • Biologic agents
  • Immunomodulators
  • Steroids
  • Symptom management medication 

Some of our IBD patients require surgery. If surgery is a potential part of your child’s treatment plan, our specialists will discuss all available surgical options. The type of surgery depends on the type and severity of IBD. Some patients decide to pursue surgery only if their symptoms don’t improve with medication. We will walk through all of the options and decide on a treatment plan that works best for your child’s needs.

Commitment to Research

The Penn State Pediatric Gastroenterology frequently participates in clinical trials to help improve digestive problems in children and adolescents. For more information on clinical trials at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, please visit StudyFinder.

Support Groups

Support groups provide children and their families an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Learn more about the support groups offered at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

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