Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Pyloric Stenosis Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Pyloric Stenosis

The main symptom of pyloric stenosis is vomiting. All babies spit up or vomit sometime. But those with pyloric stenosis spit up after most feedings. Over time, the problem gets worse. Your baby may spit up or vomit more often. The baby may have projectile vomiting, which means milk or formula spurts out with great force and may cover a distance of several feet. Eventually, your baby may not be able to keep down any milk or formula.

Vomiting may hurt your baby's stomach. But, except when they are vomiting, babies with pyloric stenosis usually don't seem uncomfortable or sick. They may appear hungry soon after vomiting because they aren't able to keep down or process their food.

If your baby spits up often, they may not have enough fluid in their body, a condition called dehydration. This can be deadly. A dehydrated baby may be sluggish and less active. The top of the baby's head and the eyes may be sunken. Your baby may not urinate as often as usual.

If babies vomit frequently for a few days, they may also produce less stool (feces). They may start to lose weight.

Pyloric Stenosis Diagnosis

Babies with pyloric stenosis usually have a history of vomiting often and with increasing force. Your baby's doctor will ask you whether your baby has had symptoms of pyloric stenosis.

The doctor also will examine your baby's stomach to feel for the thickened muscle. Often, the lump of muscle feels like an olive.

The doctor may also ask for imaging tests to look at the muscle at the end of the stomach. This may help doctors find out whether your baby is vomiting for a reason other than pyloric stenosis. These imaging tests include:

  • Ultrasound of the baby's belly (abdomen)
  • Barium X-ray. Your baby will swallow a chalky liquid that helps the digestive tract show up on the X-ray.

If the doctor thinks your baby may have pyloric stenosis, the baby will probably have blood tests to check for levels of certain chemicals. Continuous vomiting can cause an imbalance in these chemicals that can be corrected.