Feeding problems and gastrointestinal diseases in Down syndrome

Arch Pediatr. 2020 Jan;27(1):53-60. doi: 10.1016/j.arcped.2019.11.008. Epub 2019 Nov 26.


Background and method: Feeding problems and gastrointestinal disorders are the most common anomalies in people with Down syndrome (DS) and have a significant impact on their daily life. This study lists the various anomalies on the basis of 504 references selected from a PubMed search in October 2018.

Results: The anomalies are grouped into three categories: anatomical anomalies: duodenal atresia and stenosis (3.9%), duodenal web and annular pancreas; aberrant right subclavian artery (12% of children with DS with cardiac anomaly); Hirschsprung's disease (2.76%); anorectal malformation (1.16%); congenital vascular malformations of the liver; orofacial cleft, bifid uvula (4.63%), and submucous orofacial cleft; esophageal atresia (0.5-0.9%); pyloric stenosis (0.3%); diaphragmatic hernia; malrotation of small intestine or duodenum inversum; omphalocele, gastroschisis or anomalies of the median line, anomalies of the umbilical vein; biological, immunological, and infectious anomalies: neonatal cholestasis (3.9%); neonatal hepatic fibrosis; Helicobacter pylori infection (75.8% in institutionalized children with DS, between 29.2 and 19.5% in non-institutionalized); non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD; 82% in obese and 45% in non-obese); biliary lithiasis (6.9% under 3 years); celiac disease (6.,6%); geographical tongue (4%); hepatitis B virus sensitivity; autoimmune hepatitis and cholangitis; Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); pancreatitis; vitamin D deficiency (45.2% in Italy); functional disorders: suction, swallowing and chewing disorders (13 of 19 children with DS under 4 years); gastroesophageal reflux (47% in children with sleep apnea); achalasia (0,5% in adults); obesity (51.6% of males and 40.0% of females in Ireland) and overweight (32.0% and 14.8%); constipation (19.0%). Based on their practice, the authors insist on the following points: malformations are sometimes detected late (chronic vomiting after the introduction of food pieces, resistant constipation despite appropriate measures); prescription of preventive doses of vitamin D is advised; jaundice in a baby with DS may be retentional; in the event of transient leukemoid reaction it is vital to monitor liver function; the patient with geographic tongue must be reassured; for celiac serology there is no consensus on the staring age and the frequency, we propose every year from the age of 2; we advise to test people with DS for H. pylori infection if they are attending specialized institutions; abdominal ultrasounds must be systematic during the first months of life; detection of NAFLD is recommended; people with DS must be vaccinated against hepatitis B; breastfeeding is possible with maternal support; it is important to start speech therapy very early; feeding difficulties are often overlooked by the family and educators; gastroesophageal reflux is often pathological; preventing obesity must start from birth using body mass index for the general population; it is necessary to do everything for their meals to be joyful.

Keywords: Celiac disease; Down syndrome; Esophageal reflux; Feeding; Gastrointestinal; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Down Syndrome / complications
  • Down Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders of Childhood / complications
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders of Childhood / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Young Adult