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Pediatric Malabsorption Syndromes Medication

  • Author: Stefano Guandalini, MD; Chief Editor: Carmen Cuffari, MD  more...
Updated: Jul 17, 2015

Digestive enzymes

Class Summary

Pancreatic enzyme deficiency may occur because of steatorrhea secondary to malabsorption.

Pancrelipase (Ultrase, Pancrease, Creon)


Assists in digestion of protein, starch, and fat. Contains lipase, protease, and amylase.


Bile acid–binding agents

Class Summary

These agents are used in combination with antibiotics for bile acid malabsorption syndromes. Bacteria overgrowth may cause diarrhea by deconjugation and dehydroxylation of bile acids. Primary bile acid malabsorption may also occur.

Cholestyramine (Questran)


Binds bile acids, thus reducing damage to the intestinal mucosa. Also reduces induction of colonic fluid secretion. Forms a nonabsorbable complex with bile acids in the intestine, which in turn inhibits enterohepatic reuptake of intestinal bile salts.



Class Summary

Metronidazole may be considered and provides anaerobic coverage. Although the use of rifaximin in children for the indication of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is not US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved, this antibiotic is virtually nonabsorbed (< 0.4%) and has been proven useful in the treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in adults.

Metronidazole (Flagyl)


DOC for documented small bowel bacterial overgrowth. Provides good anaerobic coverage.

Rifaximin (Xifaxan)


Nonabsorbed (< 0.4%), broad-spectrum antibiotic specific for enteric pathogens of the gastrointestinal tract (ie, Gram-positive, Gram-negative, aerobic and anaerobic). Rifampin structural analog. Binds to beta-subunit of bacterial DNA-dependent RNA polymerase, thereby inhibiting RNA synthesis. Indicated for E coli (enterotoxigenic and enteroaggregative strains) associated with travelers' diarrhea.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Stefano Guandalini, MD Founder and Medical Director, Celiac Disease Center, Chief, Section of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Department of Pediatrics, University of Chicago Medical Center; Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences, The Pritzker School of Medicine

Stefano Guandalini, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Gastroenterological Association, North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition, North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease

Disclosure: Received consulting fee from AbbVie for consulting.


Richard E Frye, MD, PhD Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine; Director of Autism Research, Child and Behavioral Neurologist, Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute

Richard E Frye, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pediatrics, Child Neurology Society, International Neuropsychological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

M Akram Tamer, MD Professor, Program Director, Department of Pediatrics, University of Miami, Leonard M Miller School of Medicine

M Akram Tamer, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association, Florida Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Catherine D Newland, MD Pediatric Gastroenterology Fellow, Comer Children’s Hospital, University of Chicago

Catherine D Newland, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

B UK Li, MD Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Medical College of Wisconsin; Attending Gastroenterologist, Director, Cyclic Vomiting Program, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

B UK Li, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Gastroenterological Association, North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Carmen Cuffari, MD Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Gastroenterology/Nutrition, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Carmen Cuffari, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Disclosure: Received honoraria from Prometheus Laboratories for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Abbott Nutritionals for speaking and teaching. for: Abbott Nutritional, Abbvie, speakers' bureau.

Additional Contributors

Eric S Maller, MD 

Eric S Maller, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, American Gastroenterological Association, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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The small intestine is a major site of absorption.
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