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When to See a Pediatric Gastroenterologist: A Q&A with Kathy Chen, MD
January 22, 2019

The occasional tummy ache is par for the course with kids. From babies who spit up to adolescents who might have a nervous tummy, parents of kids of all ages have likely seen their share of stomach ailments. But when is that harmless baby spit up or chronic stomach pain a symptom of a bigger issue?

Kathy Chen, MD of St. Luke’s Pediatric Gastroenterologyhelps you figure it out.

When should my child see a pediatric gastroenterologist? 

Frequent abdominal pain that interferes with your child’s play and school could be a sign of a serious health condition and may require the services we provide at St. Luke’s Pediatric Gastroenterology. We will be able to evaluate the situation and offer a treatment plan for digestive or nutritional disorders. We treat infants, children and teens from birth up to 18-years-old for conditions like feeding problems, food allergies, constipation, celiac disease, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, colitis, irritable bowel disease and GERD.

Over the two decades I’ve been practicing, I’ve seen the evolution of modern GI care and I believe that the knowledge and tools we now have better equip us to get to the heart of what’s causing the issue and then treat it.

What part does the pediatrician play in referring a child to a pediatric gastroenterologist?

The first step in getting help for a GI issue is usually seeing your child’s pediatrician or family physician. Sometimes referrals come from ER or urgent care doctors or subspecialists like allergists, rheumatologists, pulmonologists, therapists or pediatric surgeons. Parents often seek help because their child’s GI issue isn’t improving or seems to be getting worse or more complicated.

What are the symptoms kids usually experience?

Some of the most common reasons children are referred to us include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, failure to gain weight, feeding problems, constipation or dietary issues. 

What does the treatment plan include? Do my pediatrician and my GI doctor work together?

Of course, every case varies, but with the average patient, we make a treatment plan based on the symptoms and diagnoses and then ask patients to follow up at regular intervals to check in. The average patient sees us maybe three times after the initial visit. Patients with more serious chronic illnesses like Crohn’s Disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease would follow up with us for their entire childhood until transitioning to an adult GI doctor.

Our team actively communicates with your pediatrician or family doctor. We will always send reports and share records with all providers. When necessary, the pediatric GI team can also perform specialized procedures like endoscopy and colonoscopy to help us properly diagnose the condition.

How soon can I be seen?

We now have three doctors and three different locations with evening hours. We pride ourselves on getting patients in quickly so we can ultimately get to the root of the problem quickly and help them feel better.

We’re pediatricians first, so our main job is to take care of kids and make them feel better by really getting to know them, finding out their history to pinpoint any triggers and delve into the cause. If we can do that, we’re on the right track to solving the problem.

To see one of St. Luke’s Pediatric Gastroenterology specialists, call 484-526-7575 or visit us at sluhn.org/pediatrics.