OBJECTIVE: Recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) and other gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are common complaints among children. The role of Helicobacter pylori in the cause of these complaints remains controversial. Nevertheless, there is an increasing pressure on primary care clinicians to screen for H pylori infection in symptomatic children. We systematically reviewed the published evidence for an association between H pylori infection and GI symptoms in children.
METHODS: Medline and Embase databases up to July 2009 were searched to identify studies that evaluated the association between H pylori and GI symptoms in children aged up to 18 years. When studies reported on abdominal pain without additional definition, thus not fulfilling Apley's criteria, we grouped these outcomes as unspecified abdominal pain (UAP). Methodologic quality was scored by using a standardized list of criteria, and crude odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated and pooled.
RESULTS: Thirty-eight studies met our inclusion criteria: 23 case-control studies, 14 cross-sectional studies, and 1 prospective cohort study. The overall methodologic quality was low. Pooled ORs for the association between RAP and H pylori infection in children were 1.21 (95% CI: 0.82–1.78) in 12 case-control studies and 1.00 (95% CI: 0.76–1.31) in 7 cross-sectional studies. Meta-analysis of the association between UAP and H pylori infection in 6 hospital-based studies resulted in a pooled OR of 2.87 (95% CI: 1.62–5.09) compared with 0.99 (95% CI: 0.46–2.11) in 5 population-based studies. Two of 3 studies concerning epigastric pain reported a statistically significant positive association with H pylori infection.
CONCLUSIONS: We found no association between RAP and H pylori infection in children and conflicting evidence for an association between epigastric pain and H pylori infection. We found evidence for an association between UAP but could not confirm this finding in children seen in primary care.
- Accepted October 21, 2009.
- Copyright © 2010 by the American Academy of Pediatrics