Gastroesophageal reflux is a common pediatric complaint and a frequent reason for pediatric patients to be referred to a gastroenterologist. The pathophysiology and clinical manifestations of this disorder differ according to patient age. The diagnosis is suggested by the history and can be confirmed by a pH probe. In the appropriate clinical setting, anatomic obstruction may need to be ruled out by contrast study. Endoscopy is used to assess associated complications, including esophagitis, esophageal strictures, Barrett's transformation, and failure to thrive. Other complications are controversial, including pulmonary disease, apnea, and sudden infant death syndrome. Treatment depends on the severity of disease. Conservative therapy includes behavorial modifications, prokinetic agents, and H2 antagonists. Proton pump inhibitors are generally reserved for refractory esophagitis. Surgical treatment may be necessary for gastroesophageal reflux resistant to medical management or for severe complications. Gastroesophageal reflux beyond infancy tends to be chronic; therefore, lifelong behavioral modifications or repeated courses of medical therapy may be necessary. An algorithm for the suggested diagnostic approach to gastroesophageal reflux is presented herein.
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