Infant pyloric stenosis and some research findings

There are some good reasons to complain about the scarcity of research into the causes of infant pyloric stenosis (PS).

For one, more could be done to reduce the risk of PS developing if we knew more about its many suspected non-genetic triggers.

And with more interest and knowledge about the effectiveness of alternative treatments there might be much less surgery which would be welcomed by both parents and (later) by the patient.  I have written about this in a recent post.

But the past two months have seen two valuable research reports published.  During the past month Google’s search results (even for a 24 hour publication limit) for references to “pyloric stenosis” have spilled over numerous screen pages at 10 entries per page.  Clearly, the media, medical journals and health magazines ARE interested in good news about PS.  And so am I.

What is the good news about PS?

Genetics03A Danish study published in August 2013 discovered an identical genetic link with PS and with the mother’s low blood cholesterol level.  In the Abstract which is available to us I have not read that maternal low cholesterol actually causes PS, only that there is a genetic correlation between the occurrence of the two.  The research has found that certain genes are linked to both lower cholesterol levels and infant PS.  It also found that babies with lower cholesterol levels developed PS more often than average.  More work will hopefully clarify the relationship; perhaps there is a cause and effect there somewhere?

At the very least, this discovery should alert and encourage at-risk parents to be watchful and press more vigorously for the early testing and diagnosis of any sign of PS symptoms in their newborn.  PS that occurs after the first 2 – 3 weeks can usually be treated very effectively by medical drug therapy – although sadly, finding a doctor and hospital equipped and willing for this course of treatment may be a somewhat greater challenge than overcoming the PS!

Bottle feeding1Another large study, from a Seattle USA team and published this week confirmed and extended another recent Danish research team’s finding that breast-fed babies are at less risk of having PS than bottle-fed babies.  While most of the Google-prompted articles I read simply use the material provided by the Abstract of the academic report, I discovered that the US Las Vegas Guardian Express found Dheepa Balasubramanian able to pass on not only the report but to explain its background and significance, as well as related matters – and he does that in a way that quite agrees with Dr Ian M Rogers’ work which has been so helpful to this blog.  I won’t copy and paste the key lines of this article, as for those interested it is worth clicking the link to read it in full.

This second report is even more and more immediately and practically valuable to parents than the first, as Dheepa Balasubremanian’s explanation makes very clear.  I am sure that parents who have experienced something of the trauma of PS will use these findings to reduce the risk of their children developing PS, and if they do have it, to increase the likelihood of their baby being able to avoid a meeting with the surgeon.

3 thoughts on “Infant pyloric stenosis and some research findings

  1. Wendy

    Thank you so much for your continued efforts to search the web for relevant and important material regarding PS. I am always so impressed with your dedication. I LOVE the article about breast feeding. Fascinating. I was breast-fed but interestingly, my mother gave birth to me when she was 40 and there may be some issue here regarding higher levels of estrogen and the state of the pylorus. But I don’t know what the author, Balasubramanian, meant by “It is also suspected that the fetus’ pyloric muscle could be primed, in utero, to the high estrogen levels in the older mother’s uterus, thereby making the infant more susceptible to the effects of bottle feeding, after birth.” What does he mean by “primed”? Any ideas? The issue of the cholesterol levels is also fascinating. What with the breakthroughs in the field of epigenetics these days–the reality that the environment in which the DNA exists is responsible for turning genes on and off–what is it that is causing the expression of this gene? Maybe I just don’t know enough about genetics to really get this correlation, but what’s wonderful is that there may be something practical that can be done to lower the chances of a mother’s baby having PS and that is to monitor a pregnant woman’s cholesterol. Yes!
    Thank you for making us aware of these latest discoveries.

  2. Fred Vanderbom Post author

    Your comments are always so thoughtful and welcome, and also inviting of further research and writing, Wendy!
    Alas, I don’t have the background or mind to delve into the working of biochemistry in relation to breast feeding and pyloric stenosis, although it is quite often referred to in academic articles. The same is unfortunately true of genetics. I’ve had accept that I’ll never mix it with scientists. But web-exploring and discovering what I can about pyloric stenosis, infant surgery and their effects (subjects close to my heart), and publishing and advocating for what I find – this is what I can do and do well!
    As you and I have both remarked, the “bottom line” is that the recent discoveries should in time make it possible to give advice to pregnant women and new parents that will lower the incidence and/or speed the diagnosis and improve the treatment of PS. There is hope for a better deal for future generations!


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