Recurrent abdominal pain in childhood is not likely to persist

  • Sjölund J & al.
  • Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol
  • 25 Apr 2020

  • curated by Kelli Whitlock Burton
  • Clinical Essentials
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Takeaway

  • More than a quarter of children report recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) at least once between early childhood and age 16, but in most cases, RAP does not persist into adolescence.
  • Those with RAP at age 12 years were significantly more likely to have abdominal-pain-related functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders (AP-FGID) at age 16.

Why this matters

  • Abdominal pain in children is notoriously difficult to diagnose and also quite common.

Study design

  • 2374 children from a prospective population-based birth cohort study in Sweden.
  • Parent-reported attacks of colic in early childhood (1-2 years) and self-reported weekly abdominal pain at 12 and 16 years.
  • Funding: Swedish Research Council and others.

Key results

  • 26.2% reported RAP.
  • 44.9% who reported RAP at age 12 had persistent GI issues at 16 years, with increased relative risk (95% CI) for:
    • RAP: 2.2 (1.7-2.8).
    • Any AP-FGID: 2.6 (1.9-3.6).
    • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): 3.2 (2.0-5.1).
  • Persistent RAP between early childhood to age 12 years was more common in girls (11.7% vs 1.4%; P=.01).
  • 16.1% of children with AP-FGID had childhood RAP, including 18.0% with IBS, 18.2% with functional dyspepsia, and 9.7% with functional abdominal pain.
  • Among those with IBS, childhood RAP was more common in girls (25.6% vs 5.7%; P<.01>

Limitations

  • Case classification did not include a medical evaluation.