Provocative Study: Pyloric Botox for Feeding Difficulties

S Hirsch, S Nurko, P Mitchell, R Rosen. J Pediatr 2020; 226: 228-235. Botulinum Toxin as a Treatment for Feeding Difficulties in Young Children

This retrospective study of children, n=85, 2 months to 5 years (2007-2019) examined the effectiveness of intrapyloric botulinum toxin injection (IPBI) in children with feeding difficulties; many had vomiting (n=66) or retching (n=25). Dosing per report: 6 units/kg to a maximum of 100 units, divided in 4 injections around the pylorus. 100 units were diluted in 1 mL of normal saline to create a 10 unit/0.1 mL solution. The study excluded 27 patients who had IPBI but had insufficient data/follow-up or other disease processes.

Key findings:

  • 57 patients (67%) had partial or complete improvement in symptoms after IPBI. 10 (18%) patients were reported to have a complete response.
  • Twenty-six patients (31%) received repeat IPBI within 1 year, with only 6 patients receiving IPBI more than twice
  • “Baseline gastric emptying results did not predict IPBI response”


  • Retrospective study from a tertiary referral center
  • Lack of control group
  • Relatively small numbers –about 7 children per year. Given the large number of children with feeding problems followed by the Boston group, this is a highly-selected group
  • Lack of standardized evaluation to determine improvement
  • The authors state that time alone is not likely the reason for observed improvements because “our general practice at our institution is to pursue IPBI when other medical interventions have failed, and indeed these patients had been followed by our group for an average of slightly more than 1 year before receiving IPBI”

My take: Overall, I am impressed with the innovative ideas from Boston Children’s for pediatric patients with feeding problems. Yet, I am skeptical with regard to the use of IPBI for feeding difficulties; though, there may be a subset of children who benefit. Many children with complex feeding problems improve without the use of IPBI. Clearly, a randomized trial would be helpful.

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