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Cardinal Glennon / Services & Programs / Pediatric Gastroenterology / Gastrointestinal Motility Center

Motility Disorders

The nationally recognized Pediatric Neuro-Gastroenterology and Motility Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital is one of only a handful of dedicated programs in the United States — and the only one at a children’s hospital in the region — focused on the diagnosis and treatment of motility disorders in young children and adolescents.

What is a Motility Disorder?

Motility refers to the movement of food, fluids, and waste through the digestive system. It’s a process that enables the body to both absorb nutrients and produce waste.

Movement through the digestive tract requires coordinated action between all the muscles and nerves along the pathway. When they don’t work together properly, it can lead to long-term problems, including:

  • severe, chronic (hard to treat) constipation
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • swallowing or eating difficulty
  • abdominal bloating or pain


Motility disorders can be associated with a variety of diseases and conditions. Among the most common symptoms we see are severe constipation, fecal incontinence, achalasia, dysphagia, gastroparesis, severe acid reflux, and other GI tract dysfunctions. Children diagnosed with spina bifida, myelodysplasia, spinal cord abnormalities, or Hirschsprung disease also often have motility disorders.

Diagnosing Motility Disorders

Within our motility center, we offer the full range of diagnostic testing for young patients. Among the tests we offer are:

Esophageal, antroduodenal (AD), colonic, and anorectal manometry measures the strength (pressure) and coordination of various muscles along the digestive tract. These tests are conducted through the placement of a small flexible tube through the nose, mouth, or rectum.

Breath testing checks for the presence and amount of several different gases which could indicate the presence of bacteria (H. pylori) or a lactose or fructose intolerance.

pH- Multichannel Intraluminal Impedance (pH-MII) (Acid probe) Test measures how severe your acid reflux is and whether it is adequately controlled well on acid medications.

This is a test which gives us estimates on how well your child’s intestine functions. Your child will first swallow a capsule containing multiple small rings. This also could be done by opening the capsule and sprinkling the markers on food such as apple sauce or yogurt. Several days later, an x-ray will be done to see where the rings are along the digestive tract and how well the muscles functioned to move them along.

Treatment Options

Individualized treatment options we offer include:

  • Biofeedback or pelvic floor training
  • Balloon dilation of esophageal strictures
  • Botox therapy for anal fissures and dyssynergic defecation
  • Neurostimulators (IB-STIM) for irritable bowel syndrome and chronic abdominal pain
  • Guided imagery
  • New medications and laxatives

SSM Health Cardinal Glennon is one of only a few hospitals in the country with expertise in the use of neurostimulators for the treatment of functional abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The non-surgical procedure is FDA-approved for children ages 11 to 18. According to a study, 95% of adolescents stated they would recommend the treatment to family or friends. With IB-Stim, 81% of patients had improvement in global symptoms with no serious adverse events, and minimal to no side effects.

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