Back in the 1950s I once overheard my parents talking about my oldest (and long deceased) uncle Fred having a stomach ulcer and an operation to deal with this. I well remember being transfixed and “all ears”, but having been stonewalled so often, I dared not ask my parents the question on my mind. At this time I would have been about 10 years old, and I had worked out that my prominent and hated belly scar was from an operation I’d had as a baby as I’d developed a blocked stomach (pyloric stenosis, “PS”). I was keen to know whether my uncle Fred would be sporting a scar just like his young namesake.
When I got to see my uncle in swim-mode some 20 years later I was disappointed: his scar was small and almost invisible, far less disfiguring than mine. Compared with infant surgery in the 1940s, abdominal surgery on adults and 20 years later was quite tidy.
What I’ve discovered only recently is that infant PS and adult gastric ulcers and PS are often related. All three conditions and several others have been linked with a high output of gastric acid and this is often a family trait. So my connection with my namesake uncle (and hero) likely went further than our family realised!
The previous post sets out some of the important similarities and differences between the infant and adult forms of PS. This post will outline two medical articles on adult PS.
The first report was published in 2010 and deals with the case of a 71 year old male who was diagnosed with PS. The interested reader is encouraged to use the link to read the full article which has been kindly made available to the public.
In brief, it notes that adult PS is found in two forms. It is often caused by other conditions: a long history of a mild form of the early version, an earlier stomach problem such as a gastric ulcer, or cancer. Sometimes, as in this case, no underlying disease was found. This 71 year old was unaware of any such factors, yet tests and surgery proved this man did indeed have a PS. His symptoms of “abdominal distension, nausea, and vomiting” had been noticed for (just) 3 months.
It is noted that both forms of PS occur far more often in males than in females, and that they often recur in certain families.
The aim of this report is to be applauded: to raise the awareness of both forms of PS within the medical community, and especially the various ways it can appear in adults.
For those like myself and (I expect) most of our readers, the article’s value is also in its acknowledgement that the infant and adult forms of PS are related, and that the infant form does not necessarily end with a simple surgery. Far from it, as many of us have well come to know!
The second report can thankfully also be read in full by those interested in more detail. It outlines the very large decline in the number of adult PS sufferers needing surgery. I have already posted about this.
This study was undertaken by a York (UK) body gathering data on peptic ulcer disease, and based on the statistics from the 3 kinds of stomach surgery done on 4,178 adults and how often adult PS was found during these procedures. The study ran from 1929 to 1997 and included people born between 1889 and 1959. It found that the age at surgery fell during these years, that PS was found in 17% of the earliest patients, and just 3% in the last group, and that gastric surgery rates fell markedly (although not uniformly) during the almost 70 years under the lens.
These results show very clearly the effectiveness of modern medical treatment for stomach conditions and introduced in 1977; this includes acid-suppressing medication which reduces the formation of gastric ulcers and resultant scarring of the stomach wall and pylorus. However, the reduction of PS numbers was even greater than the falling numbers of stomach surgery, suggesting that a number of factors are at work, including diet, medication, and the management of upper bowel disease.
Once again, the great majority of readers will be less interested in the medical messages of the report than in what it might mean for interested lay people. What do these figures mean for you and me whose history includes PS?
- People who have had infant PS are less likely to have serious long-term effects than they might have expected some 40 years ago or earlier, thanks to better diet options and medication.
The fact that today we can read much more about the long-term problems experienced after infant PS is a reflection of our access to the media, not of rising numbers.
- People who have had infant PS are ever less likely to need further surgery for ongoing problems including a renewed stomach blockage. We need to be aware that for some of us these problems are significant, testing, and often interminable.
The report states what many have found (as I have read), that surgical responses to such problems are not only severe but also likely to be ineffective in the longer term.
- Peptic ulcer disease continues today but it now very rarely results in PS.
So – generally good news for the PS-aware community! My next post will review several other medical articles on adult PS.