Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease in Children With Disabilities
(GERD—Child With Disabilities; Chronic Heartburn—Child With Disabilities; Reflux Esophagitis—Child With Disabilities; Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease—Child With Disabilities; GORD—Child With Disabilities; Heartburn—Child With Disabilities; Reflux—Child With Disabilities)
Pronounced: Gas-tro-ee-sof-a-geal re-flux disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a disorder that results from food and stomach acid backing up into the esophagus from the stomach. GERD is different from gastroesophageal reflux (GER). GER is a common disorder seen in infants, which causes them to spit up. Most infants outgrow GER within 12 months.
Children who have congenital malformations (birth defects) or neurological impairments (disorders that affect the brain and spinal cord) are at an increased risk of GERD.
This condition can cause serious health issues. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
The exact cause of GERD is often unknown. These factors may contribute to it:
- Congenital malformations
- Abnormal pressure to the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a valve that keeps food in the stomach
- Narrow or short esophagus
- Delayed emptying of the stomach
- Possibly a genetic link
The following factors increase your child’s chance of developing GERD. If your child has any of these risk factors, tell the doctor:
If your child experiences any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to GERD. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If your child experiences any one of them, see the doctor.
- Difficulty swallowing or choking with feedings
Your doctor will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Your child may need to see a pediatric gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in gastrointestinal diseases
Tests may include the following:
- Swallowing evaluation—an occupational therapist will evaluate your child’s ability to swallow
- Upper GI series
Treatment focuses on preventing injury to the esophagus, getting enough nutrition, and minimizing the risk of aspiration. This requires a team approach. For example, members of the medical team may include a pediatrician, pediatric gastroenterologist, nutritionist, surgeon, nurses, feeding specialist, physical therapist, and an occupational therapist.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:
Maintaining adequate nutrition is a crucial part of treatment. The doctor may recommend inserting a tube into your child’s stomach for feeding. A feeding tube ensures that the nutritional needs are being met, minimizes the risk of choking, and often eases the stress of feeding.
Your child’s doctor may prescribe medication to promote healing and relieve symptoms. Examples include:
- Histamine-2 receptor drugs—to decrease acid production (eg, Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac)
- Proton pump inhibitors—to heal the esophagus lining and relieve symptoms (eg, Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, Nexium)
Many of these are available in liquid or powder form.
In severe cases, the doctor may recommend surgery. The most common treatment is called
Children’s Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
About Kids Health
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
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Last reviewed November 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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