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Approach to a Child with Chronic Diarrhea

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Chronic diarrhea in children is challenging both with regards to etiological diagnosis and for management. Etiology and pathophysiological mechanisms vary widely from neonates to adolescents. Congenital or genetic causes are more frequent in neonates, while infections, allergy and immune-mediated mechanisms are more frequent in childhood. A thorough history and proper physical examination are required to decide for further diagnostic evaluation. The approach to a child with chronic diarrhea should be age specific and based predominantly on the pathophysiological mechanism involved. The nature of the stool like watery, bloody or fatty (steatorrhea) can suggest the probable etiology and organ system involved. After routine tests, evaluation with specific serological tests, imaging, endoscopy (gastroscopy/colonoscopy), histopathology of intestinal mucosa, breath tests or radionuclide imaging may be required to make a definitive diagnosis. Genetic evaluation is important in congenital diarrheas, monogenic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and immunodeficiency disorders. Management is aimed at stabilization, nutritional support and etiology specific treatment. Specific therapy can be as simple as exclusion of specific nutrient or as complicated as small bowel transplant. Evaluation and management require expertise and thus patients need to be referred in a timely fashion. This will minimise morbidity including nutritional consequences and improve outcome.

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Both authors contributed to the literature search, drafting and review of this original manuscript. Both authors are accountable for all aspects of the manuscript. AS will act as guarantor for this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Anshu Srivastava.

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Tripathi, P.R., Srivastava, A. Approach to a Child with Chronic Diarrhea. Indian J Pediatr 91, 472–480 (2024).

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