Jamie is a 3-month-old female who presents with her mother for evaluation of “throwing up.” Mom reports that Jamie has been throwing up pretty much all the time since she was born. Jamie does not seem to be sick. In fact, she drinks her formula vigorously and often acts hungry. Jamie has normal soft brown bowel movements every day and, overall, seems like a happy and contented baby. She smiles readily and does not cry often. Other than the fact that she often throws up after drinking a bottle, she seems to be a very healthy, happy infant. A more precise history suggests that Jamie does not exactly throw up—she does not heave or act unwell—but rather it just seems that almost every time she drinks a bottle she regurgitates a milky substance. Mom thought that she might be allergic to her formula and switched her to a hypoallergenic formula. It didn’t appear to help at all, and now Mom is very concerned.
Cases like these are not uncommon. The mother was concerned and thinking her daughter may have an allergy; she changed to a different formula. However, sometimes babies have immature GI tracts that can lead to physiology reflux as they adapt to normal life outside the uterus. Parents often do not consider this possibility, prompting them to change formulas rather than seeking medical care. As in the case study above, GI alterations can often be difficult to identify because many cause similar symptoms. This same issue also arises with adults—adults may present with symptoms that have various potential causes. When evaluating patients, it is important for the advanced practice nurse to know the types of questions he or she needs to ask to obtain the appropriate information for diagnosis. For this reason, you must have an understanding of common GI disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease (PUD), and gastritis.