Motility and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Center | Disorders We Treat

One in every 10 children in the United States will experience some form of motility or functional GI disorder. Many of these disorders are challenging to diagnose, and therefore, challenging to treat.

At Boston Children’s Motility and Functional Gastrointestinal (GI) Disorders Center, we meet with families who have seen many doctors and tried many treatments and yet still do not have a satisfactory explanation for their child’s suffering. Our advanced GI motility testing and comprehensive approach to GI motility treatment gives patients and their families the answers and relief they have been seeking.

At our Motility and Functional GI Disorders clinic, patients can see multiple specialists in the same visit. Only Boston Children’s has an expert on staff specializing in both motility and abdominal pain. Motility patients with coinciding respiratory issues can also find treatment here without leaving the clinic. Learn more about:

Meet our GI motility team.

GI motility conditions we treat

Families from all over the world come to Boston Children’s GI Motility Center seeking relief from common and complex motility problems. Our GI motility specialists diagnose and treat all forms of motility disorders, including the following conditions.

  • Achalasia: The lower esophageal muscle does not relax to allow food to enter the stomach, making it difficult to swallow liquids and solids.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Also called acid reflux or heartburn, GERD occurs when stomach contents (acidic stomach juices, foods or fluids) flow backward from the stomach into the esophagus.
  • Gastroparesis: A condition in which the stomach muscles do not work properly. As a result, food empties from the stomach very slowly, or not at all.
  • Hirschsprung's disease: Obstruction of the intestine resulting from the abnormal development of intestinal nerve cells.
  • Intractable abdominal pain: Persistent stomach pain that has not responded to usual therapies.
  • Intractable constipation: A difficulty in the passing of bowel movements that does not show improvement with typical treatments and therapies. It requires expert testing to determine the cause and treatment.
  • Intractable fecal incontinence: Fecal incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements, causing unexpected stool (feces) leakage. It is considered intractable when there is no obvious cause or cure and requires expert testing to accurately diagnose and treat.
  • Pseudo-obstruction: Nerve or muscle problems that prevent normal movement of food, fluid and air through the intestines.

Other common conditions treated at Boston Children’s GI Motility Center include:

  • Swallowing problems
  • Diarrhea: Frequent, loose or watery stools that do not respond to treatment
  • Dysphagia: Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Esophageal atresia: A rare birth defect in which a baby is born without part of his or her esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach)

What are GI motility and functional disorders?

"Motility" is a term used to describe the contraction of the muscles that power the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The gastrointestinal tract consists of many parts that work together:

  • The mouth and esophagus allow the ingestion of nutrients, and the esophagus carries food to the stomach.
  • The stomach mixes food with digestive enzymes.
  • The small intestine absorbs nutrients.
  • The colon reabsorbs water, eliminates indigestible food residues and allows the expulsion of unused material in a socially acceptable manner.

Motility disorders refer to the process by which the food is transported from the mouth to the colon. Functional disorders are those associated with the sensation that coincides with the actions of the GI tract.

If any of these areas experience abnormal motility or sensitivity, a range of symptoms can occur. These symptoms can be emotionally difficult for both children and their parents. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal distension (bloating)
  • Inability to eat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fecal incontinence

Advanced GI motility testing at Boston Children’s

Physicians refer patients to Boston Children’s for the most precise and advanced GI motility testing available. These procedures include high-resolution antroduodenal colonic manometry, esophageal manometry and anorectal manometry.

We are also one of the few centers performing high-resolution impedance studies and BRAVO placement. These specialized techniques make it possible to pinpoint the precise areas that require treatment, as well as identify other complications.

A collaborative team of doctors will work together to decide on the best course of treatment for your child. Learn more about GI motility testing at Boston Children’s.

Personalized approach to treatment

Our GI motility center develops treatment plans customized to meet the varied needs of every child’s unique condition. Each team member has many years of experience researching and treating various gastrointestinal and functional motility disorders—often specializing in specific symptoms or treatments. This means that we are able to offer a highly customized, multidisciplinary approach to treatment for all of our patients, leading to the best outcomes possible. Learn more about the GI motility treatments we offer.

Make an appointment

For an appointment, more information or to obtain a second opinion for your child, please contact the Motility and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Center at 617-355-6055 or request an appointment online.