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Pathogenesis of acute diarrhea in children

Jay R Thiagarajah, MD, PhD
Martin G Martin, MD, MPP
Section Editor
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


Diarrheal diseases have been a major health problem throughout human history. Prior to the advent of modern medicine, severe diarrhea was often fatal and disease outbreaks spread quickly, affecting large populations. Today, despite the success of interventions such as oral and intravenous rehydration therapy, diarrheal diseases remain a substantial cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide, particularly in children and the elderly. In 2015, it was estimated that worldwide 577,000 children aged <5 years and 502,000 adults aged >70 years died from diarrheal diseases [1]. The underlying cause of diarrhea in children are numerous and vary by age and geographical location, among other factors.

Regardless of etiology, the evaluation and management of an infant or child with diarrhea requires an understanding of the physiology of fluid and electrolyte transport in the gastrointestinal tract. This topic focuses on the pathophysiology of fluid absorption and secretion in diarrhea and a classification of diarrhea relevant to diagnostic evaluations.

Detailed reviews of the diagnostic approach and management of diarrhea in children are found in the following topics:

(See "Approach to diarrhea in children in resource-rich countries".)

(See "Overview of the causes of chronic diarrhea in children in resource-rich countries".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 14, 2017.
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