Tag Archives: research

Is there a link between infant PS and later abdominal trouble?

Most General Practitioners (GPs) will reject any link out of hand.  Some GPs have even been known to ask their patient (or client) what “PS” (pyloric stenosis) is.

We can be sure that every medical textbook and training includes at least a page or part of a lecture on PS, which is the most common reason for non-elective surgery on infants in their first months and years.  But who can blame a medical student for not remembering everything they are told and read over six or more packed years?

However, the almost universal denial of a link between PS and later abdominal trouble is more than a nuisance.  It may be “textbook” but it misleads and misinforms the parents of a PS baby and most will continue with this false assurance until they discover the truth – usually only after much frustration.  As for PS survivors, they are the immediate and personal subjects of the widespread ignorance and misinformation about the possible long-term gastric and other problems that can come with PS and/or its surgery.

113This kind of trouble does not seem to afflict the majority of PS survivors, and may only affect a small minority.  But considering PS affects between 2 and 5 in every 1,000 babies, that is still a lot of people!  I have on file hundreds of stories just from those who have told something of their story on Facebook’s several PS Group pages – and elsewhere!  There are several other social forum sites carrying the stories of worried or unhappy PSers.

The pattern is typically like this:

  • The “survivors” endure some years of increasingly nagging (though not mortal) discomfort, pain and frustration with real but unidentified gastric and/or other abdominal symptoms (tightness, pain, bloating, irritable bowels, dietary misbehaviour, vomiting, etc.
  • Their doctors seem loathe to acknowledge these symptoms, giving their patients medication or dietary advice.
  • There is outright rejection of PS possibly having long-term consequences – the high acidity of PS, damage to the gastric passage and even the lungs (from ingested vomit), post-surgical adhesions, and trauma after old-style infant surgery and hospitalization are just some of the hazards which should be considered.  All of these possible conditions have been documented and reported in medical literature.
  • It seems that often the “survivor” discovers the link between their malady and their PS past only when they stumble onto an online forum where they find they are not alone.

Sadly, because PS-related problems are low on the medical world’s radar for several reasons, there is virtually no interest in researching them.  Hence the medical juggernaut rolls on in rejection and ignorance.  However, there have been a few small studies and (from what I have found) just one very large study that have confirmed that infant PS is not always free of long-term consequences.

If the reader is interested to trawl through enough pages of stories on this blog and on the screens of the largest three of Facebook’s PS Groups, they will also find reports that several GI specialists have (usually after many, many consultations) admitted to a connection, agreed on tests, and arrived at better advice treatment.

In 2014 a pediatric surgeon friend and I published a small book, in which he explained what many still regard as the elusive cause of PS and I outlined my personal experience of this condition.

Pain01Lay reading of medical journals and even a basic understanding of how our gut and PS work tell us there certainly can be a link.  More specifically, the high acid that causes PS continues with the patient, raising the risk of related issues including reflux, irritable bowels, esophageal damage, and gastric ulcers and cancer.  Reduced gastric emptying could well be caused by damage to the vagus nerve or adhesions from the operation constricting the working of the stomach and gall bladder, whilst the throat / voice problems are likely caused by erosion / scarring of the esophagus caused by reflux, high acid, or lack of care with the breathing tube during surgery.

Of course anyone with any such symptoms would need a proper diagnosis but it’s not hard for even lay people to understand the links.  With countless numbers from my Facebook networks, I plead with the medical profession, parents, patients and the family and friends of PS survivors to recognise and help spread the awareness of this quite common condition and its possible ramifications.

And if what you the reader has learnt here “rings a bell” … I sincerely hope that you have been greatly encouraged to pursue your problem and get it sorted out.

Pyloric stenosis in its adult forms (2)

My life’s work as a church pastor has made me aware of many of the common medical conditions, as I have supported people with all kinds of cancers, many heart, lung and “lower abdominal” conditions… ah, I don’t want to bore you with the long list!

Troublesome and also serious medical conditions often occur without warning and they can totally surprise the sufferer.  When I needed two kinds of eye surgery some years ago, I already knew a lot about the cause, the procedure, and the likely outcome.  My father had already charted my path, as had several people I pastored. 112

But most non-medical people have not had not worked with as many sick people as I have, and many health problems don’t have a clear family / genetic factor.  For these folk especially it can be very frustrating to be dealing with something life-affecting they know nothing about; quite likely they’d never heard of their condition before.

Adult pyloric stenosis (“PS”) is often like that: it is far rarer than the infant form (which itself is not exactly everyday), and it’s not always obviously linked with the family’s genes or the patient’s lifestyle.

A 1998 medical report deals with such a case.  For the details, please use the link to find and read the full article.  All three medical journal reports mentioned in this post are commendably available free and in full on the web! Points of general interest in this first article include –

  • It concerns a (then) 47 year old Caucasian woman, a rare thing as PS in both its infant and adult forms affects about 4 times as many males as females.
  • It seems this PS case was regarded as “primary” – without an obvious cause.  Several symptoms started only some 2 – 3 months before her surgery, and although she had suffered from dyspepsia and occasional vomitting she had none of the common precursors to adult PS: infant PS, adhesions, a gastric ulcer or cancer (which would have made this a “secondary PS”).
  • Examinations and imaging before her surgery showed little abnormality apart from reduced stomach emptying, but post-op pathology showed abnormal cell and muscle structure in the pyloric region.
  • The distal gastrectomy surgery involved removing the lower part of the stomach and the pylorus and attaching the stomach to the duodenum.
  • The report tells us there were no continuing symptoms, although it is not hard to find less concise and straightforward comments from other patients elsewhere!  This patient had severe surgery that should be expected to change digestive functioning.

Several other matters are also worth mentioning –

  • It is mentioned at several points that the cause of primary adult PS is little understood, and it is claimed that there are no statistics on how frequently it occurs.
  • Several surgical techniques are used to manage adult PS, all of which are more radical and affect digestion far more than Ramstedt’s operation which is the usual procedure used to remedy infant PS.

In light of this, I was somewhat intrigued to discover that a 1965 article (also freely available in full) contradicted several of the most significant assertions made by the previous report!  Specifically, Dr Milo W Keynes claimed that –

  • “Primary”, “uncomplicated” or “simple” PS in adults seems to have a genetic base.
  • It is far more common than is often claimed – but adult PS patients and those with a “simple” PS are less likely to seek treatment than the parents of a very sick baby.
  • “Secondary” PS occurs more often than the “primary” form, although reports of the incidence vary greatly from 10:1 to 3:1.
  • Many of the patients had struggled with symptoms for many years (e.g., 12 years), and sometimes from childhood.
  • There is a long list of symptoms, and these vary greatly.
  • Most patients were older, but the documented cases ranged from age 14 to 85.
  • Adult PS occurs in about 2 males to every female – different from the infant form.
  • It is claimed that “simple” PS can usually be traced to the patient’s infancy.
  • It is also claimed that it can be managed without major surgery: by the same muscle-splitting Ramstedt operation as done with babies.
  • However, at the end of the article it is stated that the preferred management of adult PS is by one of the much more severe surgical techniques, so that underlying disease such as a cancer or an ulcer can be dealt with if necessary and because the Ramstedt procedure does not always relieve the obstruction.  This leaves the patient and surgeon with a choice between gastro-duodenostomy, gastroenterostomy, gastro-jejunostomy, partial gastrectomy and pyloroplasty.

Another article in the same medical journal issue as the previous one reported on a study of 100 adult PS patients, all of whom had their diagnosis confirmed at surgery.  All but 3 of these were found to have a cancer or peptic ulcer(s): of these 3, one had Hodgkin’s disease, leaving the other two with a “simple” adult hypertrophic (enlarged) PS. Details in this report which are likely to be of interest to the reader of this blog include –

  • Although the symptoms of adult PS vary greatly, the core symptoms are common and quite unmistakable: vomiting containing food eaten a day or two earlier, loss of appetite, weight loss, and gastric splash (an audible sloshing sound in the stomach when rocked more than 3 hours after a meal).
  • A duodenal ulcer can cause obstruction without vomiting.

These two reviews of informative articles conclude a series of three on adult PS.

Interested readers might use the “Categories” box (top right of the “page”) to find other posts on this subject. DiscussionForum

Facebook members might join one or more of the largest PS Groups on this social web forum, as some 12 adult PS sufferers have shared something of their varied and common experience of this condition.  Several of these Groups are “closed”: all can be found via the Facebook Search box, but to encourage candid sharing only those who join can see their contents.

End-of-year reflection

This post was born between Christmas and a new year, surely a time of celebration, thanksgiving and reflection for all our readers, and amplified for many people like me by our Christian faith and values.

Being an infant pyloric stenosis (“PS”) survivor also adds to this time of the year: life-saving surgery leaves people like me with much more than the typical parent tales of the cute things we did when we were very young.  PS survivors of anywhere like my vintage (1945) usually have an ugly scar and were perhaps psychologically affected.  However, our scar also reminds many of us at least daily that our life was saved and greatly extended thanks to the admittedly crude surgery and long before we were conscious of it!

For me that happened more than 69 years ago, and the passing years make me increasingly grateful for a rich and happy life.

Song writer Robert Thompson supports Sheffield Children's Hospital.

Song writer Robert Thompson supports Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Early this month I came across a weblink to a British newspaper article that reminded me that being a PS survivor affects many people this way.  A local songwriter penned a Christmas song (Would you believe Father Christmas has a twin?) and created a CD around it to raise funds for kidney research at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Reading this also reminded me how many PS people who mention their survival story online also express their gratitude for being a survivor, despite their often strong feelings about a disfiguring and embarrassing scar and ongoing trouble with what are suspected as being long-term effects of the condition or the operation.

We all agree that our world is far from perfect, and that the same is true of our bodies and emotions, even without having had infant surgery.  But life can be pretty good despite this!

Thank you also to my readers for your interest, encouragement and responses.  Best wishes for 2015!

Are Pyloric Stenosis problems history yet?

In my previous post I explored the horrible old mantra that “babies have no brain and therefore will not feel or remember pain”.

When I was just 10 days old I had my first surgical operation, for a pyloric stenosis (“PS”, a blockage at the stomach’s outlet) which occurs fairly commonly in between 2 and 5 baby boys and about one girl in every 1,000.  In 1945 (and for several decades after this) the trauma easily caused by what is today regarded as simple surgery was not understood –

  • the operation was often done without a general anesthetic, sometimes even without local pain control because of the major hazards and possible side-effects of each;
  • hospital stays after such an operation were routinely 2 weeks;
  • in hospital sick and recovering babies were routinely separated from their mother to reduce the danger of infection and they were fed on bottled milk;
  • the effects of these practices on the infant’s parents were usually discounted and masked by a code of silence, which often made them even more toxic in the long-term on parent and patient.
  • What I have outlined here has had a lifelong effect on me, and most likely also my parents, although they maintained their silence to their deaths many years ago.

Nerdy MD2One effect of this on me has been a lifelong and obsessive interest in PS and infant surgery.  In recent years what I have learnt and continue to learn has been channelled into teaching and advocacy for the a list of “issues” around these two subjects –

  • What is PS and how was it treated yesterday and is it treated today?
  • Can surgery for infant PS be avoided?
  • How can PS and its surgery affect the infant’s parents?
  • How can they affect the patient in the immediate and long-term?
  • Why is the diagnosis of PS often so frustratingly delayed and what can be done about this?
  • How can parents deal with the problems babies frequently have after the operation?
  • How can PS survivors deal with some remarkably similar problems that all-too-often arise in adult life?
  • Do babies feel and remember pain and other trauma of their pre-verbal stage of life?
  • What are the symptoms of PTSD that seem linked to early infant surgery, and what therapies and programs are available to those affected?
  • Since gaining access to the internet in 1997, I have learnt much about all the “issues” listed, from websites, blogs, social forums, and some valuable personal interactions and friendships that have resulted.

In 2015 I plan to continue sharing and interacting with the PS community via this blog, as well as on several social forums, notably the various Facebook Groups committed to offering support, sharing information and raising awareness about PS.

SeatonHarlan age 4 Fb 140502-2PS survivors and their parents on Facebook sometimes express their profound gratitude that some of the issues I have listed above are now largely becoming consigned to the historical record.

Greatly improved support for parents, good pain management, new surgical techniques that much reduce disfigurement, and short hospital stays are now standard.  Parents may also remark that there seems to be a slowly growing change in the medical professions’ awareness of PS and their attitude to PS parents: less professional paternalism, arrogance and conceit.  Changing social attitudes and better education in medical school seems to be germane to this.

However, it is also quite clear that we are far from being able to “move on” and go fishing!

Networking after pyloric stenosis (5): Gastric grief

This post is the 5th of a series started before I took a 3 month pause while my wife and I travelled overseas.  We had a wonderful time of reconnecting with family and friends, explored scenically beautiful and historically significant town and cities as well as Christian congregations and cathedrals, richly endowed museums and art galleries, and in the process my awareness and understanding of my “roots” was deepened, something I plan to post about on my other blog, Fred’s Pages (which has had a longer recess).


112This post again presents some of the comments made on Facebook by people who started life with infant pyloric stenosis (“PS”): this time we listen to some of the people who were left with any number of frustrating eating and gastric problems.  If the line-up of people reporting here is too long, feel free to listen to just the first and last few: the stories are awfully and tellingly similar.

Many of these people report (1) these problems as being totally mysterious to them, and (2) that consulting with their doctor did not benefit them with any light or help.  Typical also of their comments: it was when they found online forums like the several PS support groups on Facebook that they realised that many other PS survivors were living with similar gastric “issues” – which prompted them to wonder if their mysterious and annoying troubles were in fact a long-term effect of the condition and / or surgery they had had early in their life.

AA (born in) 1966
I had mine [my operation to remedy PS] in 1966 (I’m 48) and have a two inch horizontal scar… I’m suffering hugely now though from digestive issues (GERD etc) and every year undergo a battery of tests to find what’s causing the issue…  I am wondering if there’s a connection with PS.  No consultant I’ve seen or asked seems to be aware of one.  My scar does hurt/pull when I exercise vigorously but not in a way that it would stop me.

SA 1952
I had PS at 3 days old.  I am now 58 and experiencing weight loss, horrible gas, indigestion.  Dr. has no idea why.  I have to wonder if it can be attributed to my PS.

KB 1987
When I was pregnant my scar would feel like it was splitting open – it was awful.  As for now I have indigestion, acid reflux and struggle to lose weight, it can’t just be a coincidence that so many others have experienced the same thing after this surgery.

LB (year of birth unknown)
…I have always had sensitive stomach issues throughout my life but when I was drinking a few weeks back I got issues with my gallbladder and was also told I may have a bit of IBS so it might be something you’ re eating or drinking that’s flaring it up.  I recovered with some meds to reduce acid and that helped.

DCS 1973
113Growing up I have always suffered with acid reflux and have a bad attitude to food.  I cannot lose weight, suffer with bad breath and over-salivating… the more I talk to people, the more I am thinking my problems are from my ops… [but] the medical sites say there are no long term effects.  To me, it inconceivable that an op on the digestive tract doesn’t then have some long-term effect… In these last few weeks I’ve discovered that I’ve been suffering side-effects all my life: food issues, acid reflux, leading to weight issues… I’ve always assumed it’s just the way I am, but reading other people’s blogs there is a noticeable link between having had PS as a baby and now having weight and digestive tract issues.

HC (re: her PS-affected children born in 2001 & 2003)
My daughter has been pretty much poorly from birth with gastro problems, she had surgery to correct a floppy larynx caused by acid reflux at 8, although she was born with that.  She suffers stomach pain regularly often ending with vomiting.  My son seems to be getting worse as he gets older, severe stomach cramps, always around his scar and he is always violently sick after the pain, usually in the middle of the night.  We have had loads of diagnosis from ibs to bowel disease, the most recent being a dairy allergy; call it mother’s intuition but I can’t help but think it’s all PS related.

HCT 1980
I can’t eat what I like, I need to lose a lot of weight which has piled on over the years.  21/5/14
I have always had bad acid reflux since I can remember, I also have to be careful with certain foods as my stomach rejects them and I’m in agony: eggs, mayo, a lot of dairy.  Eggs is horrendous but I love them, I do have ibs from a young age but I don’t think it’s related to ps as I got ps when I was born and ibs at about 13.

IC 1967
I’ve had reflux since a child… getting worse as i get older… omeprazole and peptac help a little…

KD 1950
Have over the past 2 years had a lot of probs with partial small bowel obstructions that are apparently caused by adhesions very probably from my PS surgery all those years ago.  I am also lactose intolerant and have IBS, and often have pains at the top of my scar!  Apart from that all is good, lol.

TE 1980
I had PS and have IBS, my son also had PS, he has trouble with his bowels (even worse than me), doctors say he’s too young to be diagnosed with IBS.  They also told me PS doesn’t cause stomach problems, but I’m sure there must be a connection.  We are the only two in family who had PS and have bowel trouble.

SH 1965
I have always had what I call intestinal distress and wonder if that is common.  The only other complication I have had is 5 years ago when I had emergency gall bladder surgery.  I had so much scar tissue that my gall bladder, bile ducts, etc. were basically cemented together which made the surgery last much longer than anticipated.

EK (year of birth unknown)
I needed to change my diet to stop the stomach aches and acid reflux issues.  My mom helped me figure out what I needed to change in my diet.  I rarely eat onions, garlic, intense peppers, greasy foods, raw cauliflower, beef (I can do pork fine), and some dairy products.  Prilosec seems to help the best when I have indigestion but if I eat something (raw or cooked) with a lot of onions/garlic, it could take 2-4 days for me to recover.

EM 1974
My wife is always concerned at how often I throw up, it’s hard to explain, it’s not the same as when you have the flu.  I can go out to eat and gave a salad, steak and potato and go to the bathroom and get sick and it will be just the salad dressing or just the steak, and it’s [the vomiting is] very powerful like I would imagine PS projectile would be.  The way I found this information was 2 days ago: my wife and I were out, we stopped and grabbed a couple of hot dogs for dinner, it was around 7:00 pm and I woke up around 6, went to the restroom went back to bed, then got up at 9:00, ran to the bathroom and got sick. …I’m sorry for being gross but when I got sick it was intact dinner, to me that is not normal, I get sick often.

PM 1969
Now, almost 45 years later, I am having some tenderness at the surgery site and acid issues.  Wondering about scar tissue?  Just had an endoscopy to try and figure things out.

HP c.1990
Interested to hear about not knowing when you’re full.  I’ve often wondered if my problems with that were related to PS.

JP 1978
Is it common for us to get GERD later in life?  It would make sense if the opening was bigger and letting more acid up.  I’ve had GERD for about 10 years now.

VP 1984
111Had the op at a few weeks old, just turned 30 and been having terrible stomach issues like colic.  Not acid but reflux straight after food.  Always feel stuffed to bursting when I eat.  My relationship with food / weight management has suffered all my life to control.  Finally controlling weight and stomach pains commence at this old age – lol.  Just had gastroscopy and ultrasounds but I’m apparently all well.  No issues.  Just been given anti sickness tablets to try.  Next step.  Used to be able eat 3 courses, then pain.  Now I can’t manage one course at a restaurant [without] pain.  Think I’m gonna be put in the IBS category even though the pain is high up under ribs and in my stomach, not the bowel.

HPS (year of birth unknown)
I’ve also found that I don’t ever feel full.  On holidays and at buffets, I just find that the food stops going down at some point and my stomach stretches to a painful point.  However, I also have trouble figuring out if I am hungry.  If I don’t eat on somewhat of a schedule, I just hit a point when I get a very bad headache or shaky hands, and then I know it’s time to find something, fast.  My parents say that I have been the same way ever since I had my surgery for PS, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they are related.

ARB 1992
I’m 21 now and I have a hard time bouncing back [after a stomach bug attack].  Leaves me weak for weeks… sometimes months.  My doctor says it’s because my stomach went [through] such a major change when I was a baby.

LS 1988
I get a lot of odd tummy issues, weird noises, acid reflux pain around my scar among other things.  Never really linked them until I joined the [Facebook] group and noticed others have experienced the same too.

CT 1985
I had pyloric stenosis and I had coeliac as a child and now I suffer from stomach pains, bloating and constipation. x  I’m sure it’s all linked.

HT 1993
When I burp, I still throw up a little.  Is that just a long term side effect?

kid stomach pain3CV (year of birth unknown)
I had pyloric stenosis as an infant and for as long as I can remember I’ve had a sensitive stomach.  I have started to wonder if there a tie between the pyloric stenosis/surgery and the frequent yet mild nausea.

DW 1962
I am 52 now, I have never been able to put weight on, wished I could.  I still suffer today, not with vomiting but bloating, bowel pain, excessive wind from both ends and acid indigestion.

Once again I cannot help noticing that –

  • the stories are very similar;
  • the medical world is not interested in diagnosis, research, or remedies;
  • it very much seems (at least to those most affected) that the long-term effects of PS and the Ramstedt operation for it are far from well-understood and acknowledged.

This series of posts has been based on Facebook common interest sites and bears out that the medical alternative to treating PS surgically should be considered in almost every case – as used to be the case in the UK and Europe in the 1920s and 1930s and as it still is today in several developed countries.

The medical treatment option like surgery is not always trouble-free, but it may well avoid most if not all the serious complaints and problems which fill the hundreds of PS pages of the web’s forum sites.

Understanding infant pyloric stenosis (Conclusions)

In the previous few posts I have overviewed and “translated” in some detail the major and professional medical section of a small book recently published by Dr Ian M Rogers and myself, with the descriptive title, The consequence and cause of pyloric stenosis of infancy: Two personal stories.

The reason for this series of posts?

At least some of the survivors of infant pyloric stenosis (“PS”) and their parents will be interested to know and understand this condition better, as we keep being told that “we still don’t know what causes it”.

Let’s face it, “knowledge is power”, and how many parents don’t wish they knew more about PS when they are suddenly and horribly faced with it?  What causes this?  What can and should I do?  How do I look after my sick baby when I feel the doctor fobs me off? Can my beautiful baby avoid surgery for this? What are the possible short- and long-term side effects?

Although I have never had a child with PS, I had it as a baby and wish I had known what I know now much, much earlier.  In the past this was virtually impossible, but the power of the web has changed this completely.

True, there are still some areas that are not fully understood, but it’s also true that drawing on a lifetime’s work with PS, the retired professor Ian Rogers is able to give us a clear and (it seems to me) compelling explanation of what does in fact cause PS.  The fact that he has written his part of the book using a lot of medical language must not keep his knowledgeable and compelling explanations and rich insights from those of us most affected by PS!

In this the last post of this series, I look at the last three of 6 questions which are often regarded as summing up the mysteries of PS, but which can in fact be answered in the light of Ian Rogers’ discussion of the discoveries that together explain PS.

4   Why is PS more frequent in the first born?

first-time-mom2First-born babies are cared for by cared for by first-time mothers.  PS babies are hungry and vigorous, ravenously hungry (at first), and unusually, the condition does not leave them feeling nauseous but immediately voraciously hungry for more.  Understandably but tragically, this gives the stomach and the acid-caused work-enlarged pyloric muscle no rest; an experienced mother will be more inclined to give feeding a break.

Mention is made of a 1962 article by Dr N M Jacoby, who compared two groups of 100 babies treated medically and surgically for PS, with one baby (only) of each group dying.  Of the medically treated children, Jacoby stresses the importance of (1) relative under-feeding, (2) the drug involved (atropine) being carefully used in relation to body weight, and (3) regular stomach washouts.  Two of these cautions can be linked to the hyper-acidity theory.

It is often mentioned that PS occurs far less frequently in under-developed countries: this also fits the theory, although more factors may be involved.

5   Why does pyloromyotomy, and not gastro-enterostomy, cause the tumour to disappear?

There are reports about 52 year old patients whose pylorus was found to be still enlarged after a gastro-enterostomy surgery in infancy to overcome PS; after pyloromyotomy the pylorus returns to its normal condition after several weeks.

Unlike gastro-enterostomy, pyloromyotomy disables the muscle ring and widens the opening temporarily, which breaks the cycle of its becoming enlarged by overwork.  Gastro-enterostomy was used before pyloromyotomy was discovered and is still used occasionally: it by-passes the pylorus which removes the immediate feeding problem but the pylorus continues to be over-stimulated by an over-acidic stomach.

6   Why does PS present at around 3-4 weeks of age?

Dr Rogers mentions two possible reasons.

It could take some weeks for higher than usual acidity to enlarge the pylorus sufficiently to make a clear diagnosis of PS possible.  But if this were so, we could expect other problems caused by hyper-acidity to arise at this time – and they don’t.

More likely is that the switching mechanism between alkalinity and acidity is more immature than usual during the first weeks.

In evolutionary terms, the benefits of the normal high acidity in a baby during the first weeks (incl. guarding against microbial attack as mentioned earlier) outweigh the negative of a few babies with hyper-acidity having problems!

Other lines of enquiry

1   Genetics

genetics1Genetic studies have shown that more than one gene is involved in PS, and that the condition is multifactorial: it can be caused by any one or more of several factors.  This is confirmed by studies of identical twins who are more likely to share PS than non-identical twins or siblings but far from always.

It has been found that PS infants tend to have higher birth weight, and (anecdotally) they may also become more athletic!

2   Chemistry of the pylorus

Prof. Rogers gives three reasons why the reports of chemical abnormalities of the pyloric muscle (the presence of growth factors and the absence of other chemicals) are theoretically attractive but do not stand up to scrutiny.

3   Infection

The analysis of swabs taken from the nose and throat of babies have shown no abnormality in PS babies.

A previous post has mentioned links between hyperacidity in PS babies and in adults infected with a stomach bug, Helicobacter pylorus, which can trigger gastro-duodenal ulcers.  But several studies of PS infants have not discovered any H. pylorus infection.

Dr Rogers remarks how strange it is that none of these studies links the hyperacidity triggered by a H pylorus infection with the hyperacidity that is part of PS.  Strange indeed!


Dr Rogers sums up:

Constitutional hyperacidity coupled with developmental hyperacidity begets pyloric contractions which begets work hypertrophy which begets IHPS.  IHPS begets further hyperacidity, and so on.
Maternal anxiety in the novice mother means that the hungry but vomiting baby is frequently fed with more pyloric contractions and more work hypertrophy – and a bigger tumour.

Wryly, he adds that it seems there is nothing new under the sun, and that “we are almost back where we started”.  In 1921 Dr J Thompson already proposed that the pylorus spasming and overdeveloping through over-work were the cause of PS, and still earlier, in 1903 Dr W Freund had suggested that excess hydrochloric acidity was a key factor.

The future

Dr Rogers urges that his theory is “perfectly testable”.

  • It is well known that PS babies’ serious loss of acid through their vomiting must be remedied before surgery, as their alkalosis (excess alkaline in the body) causes dangerous hazards during and after the operation.
  • ranitidine01Adults similarly affected by vomiting and acid loss are quickly and effectively treated with drugs to reduce the excessive release of acid.
  • Successful medical treatment of babies with PS is regularly reported: intravenous atropine is used to rapidly reduce the size of the pyloric tumour while the malnutrition and chemical imbalance are corrected.
  • Surgical treatment is now more prompt with a drug (cimetidine) that rapidly corrects alkalosis.  The author mentions an as yet unpublished report that this drug when given to mild cases made surgery unnecessary in 16 of 17 cases.
  • Another powerful acid blocking drug, Ranitidine, has also proved to be very effective in avoiding surgery when PS is recognized early; it should also be useful when surgery is not safe or accessible.  Dr Rogers then briefly outlines several other avenues of treating PS safely and medically.

He concludes his comments on considering non-surgical treatment by adding:

Such a pre-operative strategy with babies with IHPS is long overdue. It should not come as a surprise if we find that such temporary treatment promotes a lasting cure. 

Understanding infant pyloric stenosis (3)

Infant pyloric stenosis (“PS”) is a condition that may affect babies during their first months, and it is regarded as the most common life-threatening affliction of early infancy, affecting between 3 and 5 babies in every 1,000 in “Western” countries.  It will usually starve the infant to death unless treated, either by surgery or medically.

ponderStrangely, we are usually told that the cause of this malady is unknown.  But is it really?

In the previous 4 posts I have summarised the main points made by Dr Ian M Rogers in a recently published small book, The consequence and cause of pyloric stenosis of infancy: Two personal stories.  Ian is a retired surgeon and professor of pediatric surgery, and his book enlarges on his argument in several medical articles which are based on a lifetime of observation, research and experience with PS.

Dr Rogers believes that the cause of PS is not a mystery, and that surgery is often not needed to remedy it.

This post continues a series and overviews the first three of Ian Rogers’ six conclusions, all based on the discoveries and facts which he has presented.  I have outlined Dr Rogers’ book in lay terms to make it accessible and understandable for non-medically trained parents, PS survivors and others interested in this subject.

Having set out the information which I have covered (selectively) in the previous posts, Ian Rogers comments that in 1970 his career put a halt to his work on PS, but that he returned to it in the 1990s, when several basic questions called for answers he believed could be given.

1   What makes some babies develop IHPS when normal babies do not?

Without entering into the more complex areas of the medical science that Dr Ian visits and must be considered to answer this question more fully, “the bottom line” is that inherited hyperacidity would be an answer to this question that fits what we know, although some details remain to be discovered.

Dr Rogers mentions several other known facts that add support to this answer, even explaining why some babies develop PS well before the usual 3 weeks to 3 months “window”, and the well-known link between PS and “O” blood.  Of course heredity as a key factor also explains the frequency of PS in certain families.

Babies with normal gastric acid secretion do not overwork the pylorus despite the raised levels of the hormone gastrin during the first post-natal weeks.

2   Why do male babies predominate?

Male dominance1The 4-5:1 male dominance of PS runs parallel to the incidence of gastric ulcers, well known to be linked with hyperacidity, and males having a more active parietal cell mass (PCM), the acid secreting part of the stomach.

Male babies have also been shown to secrete almost twice as much gastric acid as girls during their first 10 days.

3   Why self-cure with the passage of time?

Release of the hormone gastrin is at very high levels after birth, normally peaks at between 10 and 17 days, and then falls to the equivalent of adult levels at 3 – 4 months.  In normal babies raised acid levels continue for about 4 weeks, thus protecting the baby from microbe attack.  But in PS infants, while gastrin release starts to fall, acidity continues to rise and the sensing that normally allows the stomach to switch between acidity and alkalinity is overwhelmed.

Pyloromyotomy (the operation to remedy PS) disables the pyloric ring, immediately blocking its overwork and allowing normal peristalsis and acidity and alkalinity to return.

The traditional medical treatment of PS in babies and adults was based on the belief that the muscle was not hypertrophied (enlarged through overwork) but spasming, and cutting the vagus nerve and administering the anti-spasmodic drug atropine, combined with regular stomach washouts were used to reduce acidity and spasms.

Effectively, these measures (together with the relief of dehydration and the restoration of healthy blood chemistry) allow babies to survive until they are old enough to outlive the natural raised acidity levels of the first post-natal weeks.

Next post –
Dr Ian Rogers answers three other “obvious” questions about the character and “unknown” cause of PS.