Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Pyloric Stenosis Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Pyloric Stenosis

All babies spit up or vomit from time to time. Babies with pyloric stenosis spit up more often — after most feedings — and they also vomit more often than usual. Vomiting is the main symptom of pyloric stenosis.

Over time, the problem gets worse.

  • Your baby may spit up or vomit more often as time goes on.
  • Your baby may have projectile vomiting, which means milk or formula spurts out with great force and may travel several feet.
  • Eventually, your baby may not be able to keep down any milk or formula.

Babies with pyloric stenosis usually don’t seem uncomfortable or sick except when they are vomiting. They may appear hungry soon after vomiting because they aren’t able to keep down or process their food. Sometimes vomiting makes the baby’s stomach hurt.

If your baby spits up often, they may not have enough fluid in their body, a condition called dehydration. This can be deadly. If your baby is dehydrated:

  • Your 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 often for a few days, they may have fewer stools (feces). They may start to lose weight.

Pyloric Stenosis Diagnosis

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

The doctor will examine your baby’s stomach to feel for the thickened muscle. Often, the muscle feels like a lump the shape and size of 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). This is the most common test we do for pyloric stenosis.
  • Barium X-ray. If we need to do this test, 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 have blood tests to check the levels of electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, in the blood. Frequent vomiting over a short time can cause an imbalance in electrolytes that must be fixed.

Contact Us

If you have questions about pyloric stenosis treatment, call our General and Thoracic Surgery Department at 206-987-2794, extension 4.