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Focus on the use of antidepressants to treat pediatric functional abdominal pain: current perspectives

Authors Bonilla S, Nurko S

Received 18 April 2018

Accepted for publication 28 July 2018

Published 28 September 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 365—372

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CEG.S146646

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Justinn Cochran

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Andreas M Kaiser


Silvana Bonilla, Samuel Nurko

Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Boston Children’s Hospital. Boston, MA, USA

Abstract: Chronic abdominal pain is frequently encountered in pediatric practice. A large proportion of cases meet Rome criteria for abdominal pain-functional gastrointestinal disorders (AP-FGIDs). These disorders are costly and, in some cases, lead to impairment of daily functioning and overall quality of life. Pathophysiologic mechanisms include early stressful events, visceral hypersensitivity, dysmotility, changes in intestinal microbiota, and altered central nervous system processing. They are considered disorders of the brain–gut interaction. The diagnosis is made on clinical grounds using symptom-based criteria (Rome criteria). Anxiety and depressive symptoms are more prevalent in patients with AP-FGIDs. Therefore, attention has been directed to the use of neuromodulators as potential interventions for AP-FGIDs. Antidepressants are one type of neuromodulators, and one of the most studied drugs for the management of AP-FGIDs in adult and pediatric population. Data available in pediatric population have significant limitations including nonuniform methodology with different study designs and primary endpoints. Evidence of the efficacy of antidepressants in the management of pediatric AP-FGIDs is not consistent. There is an urgent need for well-designed randomized clinical trials using age-appropriate validated outcome measures. Careful consideration must be given to adverse effects, particularly increased suicidal ideation.

Keywords: tricyclic antidepressants, SSRI, functional gastrointestinal disorders, children

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