Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction

What is chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction?

Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (CIP) is a rare disorder in which nerve or muscle problems prevent food, fluid and air from moving through the stomach and intestines. The child experiences the symptoms of an intestinal blockage, though no actual blockage exists. Over time, children with CIP can become malnourished because their gastrointestinal tracts are unable to absorb nutrition.

Approximately 100 children are born with congenital CIP in the U.S. each year. CIP is a lifelong condition that can be managed with proper medical care.

What are the symptoms of chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction?

CIP prevents fluids and food from moving though the stomach and intestines. Symptoms vary, depending on which portion of the intestinal tract is affected. Common symptoms include:

The lack of intestinal function prevents the body from absorbing nutrients. As a result, many children suffer from malnutrition, failure to thrive, and weight loss. It is common for doctors to suspect and diagnose this condition soon after birth or before a child's first birthday.

What causes chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction?

CIP is caused by nerve or muscle problems that prevent the intestines from contracting normally to move food, fluid and air through the intestines. In many cases, the root cause is unknown. In children, the condition is typically congenital, meaning that most children who have it were born with it.

There are two types of CIP:

  • neuropathic CIP: when the stomach and intestines contract but the contractions are unsynchronized due to a problem with the nerves in the gastrointestinal tract
  • myogenic CIP: when the stomach does not contract or the contractions are weak due to a muscular problem

How we care for chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction

The Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Boston Children’s Hospital provides access to more specialized gastroenterology services than any other hospital. Our expertly trained team will work together and with your family to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses the full spectrum of your child's health needs.