Gastrointestinal and nutritional problems occur frequently throughout life in girls and women with Rett syndrome

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2012 Sep;55(3):292-8. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e31824b6159.


Objective: We conducted a nationwide survey to determine the prevalence of common gastrointestinal and nutritional disorders in Rett syndrome (RTT) based on parental reporting and related the occurrence of these problems to age and methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2) gene status.

Methods: We designed a questionnaire that probed symptoms, diagnoses, diagnostic tests, and treatment interventions related to gastrointestinal and nutritional problems in RTT. The International Rett Syndrome Foundation distributed the questionnaire to 1666 family-based members and forwarded their responses for our review. We interrogated the Rare Disease Clinical Research Network database to supplement findings related to medications used to treat gastrointestinal problems in RTT.

Results: Parents of 983 female patients with RTT (59%) responded and identified symptoms and diagnoses associated with gastrointestinal dysmotility (92%), chewing and swallowing difficulties (81%), weight deficits or excess (47%), growth deficits (45%), low bone mineral content or fractures (37%), and biliary tract disorders (3%). Height-for-age, weight-for-age, and body mass index z scores decreased significantly with age; height- and weight-, but not body mass index-for-age z scores were significantly lower in female subjects with MECP2 mutations than in those without. Vomiting, nighttime awakening, gastroesophageal reflux, chewing difficulty, and choking with feeding were significantly less likely to occur with increasing age. Short stature, low bone mineral content, fractures, and gastrostomy placement were significantly more likely to occur with increasing age. Chewing difficulty, choking with feeding, and nighttime awakening were significantly less likely to occur, whereas short stature was significantly more likely to occur, in female subjects with MECP2 mutations than in those without. Diagnostic evaluations and therapeutic interventions were used less frequently than the occurrence of symptoms or diagnoses in the RTT cohort.

Conclusions: Gastrointestinal and nutritional problems perceived by parents are prevalent throughout life in girls and women with RTT and may pose a substantial medical burden for their caregivers. Physician awareness of these features of RTT may improve the health and quality of life of individuals affected with this disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Bone Diseases / complications
  • Bone Diseases / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / etiology
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / genetics
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / genetics
  • Growth Disorders / epidemiology
  • Growth Disorders / etiology*
  • Growth Disorders / genetics
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / etiology
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / genetics
  • Male
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Nutrition Disorders / etiology*
  • Nutrition Disorders / genetics
  • Parents
  • Prevalence
  • Rett Syndrome / complications*
  • Rett Syndrome / genetics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • MECP2 protein, human
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2