Gastrointestinal and nutritional problems in severe developmental disability

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2008 Sep;50(9):712-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2008.03057.x.


The aim of this study was to describe the experience of 452 children and adults with a severe developmental disability who presented to a multidisciplinary clinic with swallowing, nutritional, and gastrointestinal problems. Data were obtained by chart review. Two hundred and ninety-four children (age range 7 mo-19 y, 173 males, 121 females) and 158 adults (age range 18-53 y; 90 males, 68 females) were assessed over 5 years. One hundred and eighty-two children and 86 adults had cerebral palsy. Approximately 90% were wheelchair dependent and totally dependent on caregivers for feeding; 60% had epilepsy. Pulmonary aspiration was identified by oesophageal videofluoroscopy in 41% of 174 children and 47% of 34 adults. Chronic oesophagitis and Helicobacter pylori were found in 57% of 182 children and 76% of 66 adults undergoing endoscopy. Chronic suppurative lung disease was identified by computerized axial tomography in 94% of 62 children and all six adults studied. Most patients improved with simple interventions. However, gastrostomy was recommended in 140 children and performed in 91, and in 10 adults but performed in seven, whereas fundoplication was recommended in 111 children and performed in 74, and in six adults but performed in two. In conclusion, chronic oesophagitis, pulmonary aspiration, and chronic lung disease were identified in many patients with a severe developmental disability.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developmental Disabilities / complications*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / complications*
  • Middle Aged