Pyloric stenosis or gastric outlet obstruction is caused by the muscles of the pyloric sphincter becoming enlarged and blocking the passage of food from the stomach to the small intestine.
The condition occurs mostly in infants and newborns and is fairly uncommon. Studies have shown that infants with family members that have pyloric stenosis are at risk of inheriting the condition. Gastric outlet obstruction has also been shown to be more common in males than females. Another risk factor is the use of certain antibiotics. The use of antibiotics by the mother during pregnancy or in the first few weeks of life can greatly increase the risk of having the condition.
Even though the cause of gastric outlet obstruction is unknown, some physicians believe that it may be linked to a genetic abnormality or defect. When the muscles that connect the stomach to the small intestine become enlarged, the passage narrows and prohibits food from going through. Surgery can correct the abnormality and should be performed as soon as the diagnosis occurs to prevent the condition from worsening or causing any type of gastric distress.
A variety of symptoms can present themselves if pyloric stenosis is the cause. Stomach contractions, changes in bowel movements and dehydration are all possible. In severe cases, projective vomiting and constant feelings of hunger are key indicators that something is amiss. If the problem is allowed to progress, changes in weight will be apparent.
When vomiting occurs several things begin to happen. Vomiting depletes the amount of fluids in the body. This can cause dehydration and the loss of electrolytes. Potassium and chloride are electrolytes that are used by the body to regulate most of the body’s main functions, such as heartbeat and hormone secretion. Severe vomiting can also cause stomach irritation that could lead to ulcers and other problems within the digestive system. In rare cases, infants who exhibit symptoms of gastric outlet obstruction may also be jaundiced. Jaundice is a discoloring of the skin and eyes caused by the body’s inability to breakdown bilirubin. A yellow tint or pale orange discoloration is one of the main indicators of jaundice.
The treatment for gastric outlet obstruction is surgery. More often than not, the surgery is performed the same day as a diagnosis. This prevents any further damage to the stomach and small intestine. Because of the location of the surgery, the risk of infection is high. Antibiotics are prescribed to reduce the possibility of irritation and infection.