Pediatric gastrointestinal motility is the process of food as it moves through the digestive system that includes the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines.

When your child's digestive system isn't working properly, he or she may experience uncomfortable symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain.

At MU Health Care's Children's Hospital, we have a specialty program for children who may struggle with motility disorders.

Our pediatric motility program is the only program in mid-Missouri that provides team care and comprehensive testing, consultation, and treatment. Because motility disorders are complex and often affect multiple areas of the body, our team includes pediatric gastroenterologists, pediatric surgeons, radiologists, dietitians and physical therapists. We also work closely with your pediatrician when complex motility issues affect your child to help him or her start feeling better.

Motility conditions we treat

Our specialists can help your child should he or she be diagnosed with any of the below conditions:

  • Achalasia: A rare esophageal disorder in which the esophageal sphincter does not open up, making it difficult for food and liquid to move into the stomach.
  • Chronic constipation: Struggling to empty the bowels, typically defined as having less than three bowel movements per week.
  • Fecal incontinence: The inability to hold or control bowel movements that can result in feces leaking from the rectum.
  • Functional abdominal pain syndrome: Pain that occurs in the abdomen that cannot be explained by testing or examination and can be continuous or intermittent pain.
  • Gastroparesis: A condition when the stomach is unable to empty properly.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD): Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus.
  • Hirschsprung's disease: A birth defect in which the intestinal wall nerves did not form properly, leading to difficult bowel movements and possible bowel obstructions.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): An intestinal disorder that causes pain in the abdomen area and can cause constipation and diarrhea.
  • Intestinal pseudo-obstruction: A rare condition caused by a blockage or obstruction within the bowel.
  • Rumination syndrome: Swallowed food that is not yet digested is regurgitated.
  • Small bowel bacterial overgrowth: An increase in bacteria within the small intestines that can lead to slowing the digestive tract and bowel movements.

Evaluation and diagnosis of motility disorders

Motility disorders can be complex and challenging to diagnosis. Some may stem from genetic conditions or abnormalities while others could be allergic or autoimmune conditions. Our providers use the most advanced diagnostic imaging and evaluations to determine what condition is affecting your child.

  • Esophageal manometry: A test that measures the strength and muscle coordination of the esophagus when swallowing.
  • Anorectal manometry: A test that measures the strength, coordination and sensation of muscles in the rectum that are necessary for bowel movements to occur.
  • Antroduodenal manometry: This test measures how well the stomach and intestines moves food.
  • Colonic manometry: A test that measures the pressure in the colon to learn the strength and how well bowel movements move.
  • pH impedance testing: A 24-hour test that evaluates if liquid moves back from the stomach into the esophagus.
  • Endoscopy: A procedure that allows doctors to examine the esophagus, stomach and small intestines.

Treatment of motility disorders

Depending on your child's diagnosis, our team will work with your family to create a personalized treatment plan. We begin with nonsurgical treatment options, such as medication treatment, when possible. If surgery is necessary, we work with our pediatric surgeons to provide the safest, most advanced care for your child.