Pediatric Gastroenterologist Solves Mystery Behind Young Girl’s Stomachaches

Mariellyn LaGiglia, RN, BSN, is a nurse in the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s pediatric clinic at Little Company of Mary Hospital. But last November, she found herself in a new role: the parent of a patient.

LaGiglia’s six-year-old daughter, Brooke, had been complaining of stomachaches for several months. When the stomachaches became more frequent and painful, LaGiglia decided it was time to make an appointment with pediatric gastroenterologist, Tiffany Patton, MD, with whom she works in the clinic. Patton evaluated Brooke for several gastrointestinal disorders and reviewed her recent blood work. She suspected a diagnosis of abdominal migraines and suggested treatment.

Abdominal migraines are characterized by recurrent bouts of abdominal pain, which last for at least one hour and are often associated with decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, pallor (pale appearance), and/or headaches. “At the time of the office visit, Brooke had all of the symptoms of abdominal migraines,” Patton said. “Her family also had a significant history of migraine headaches, which led to my suspicion of abdominal migraines.”

First, the physician recommended that Brooke and her family identify emotional events (either stressful or exciting) that typically triggered her symptoms, and reduce her exposure to these events. She also prescribed a particular antihistamine proven to help patients with abdominal migraines.

“Almost immediately, we saw a dramatic decrease in the number and intensity of Brooke’s migraines, and she hasn’t vomited once since starting the medication,” LaGiglia said. “While she still has a belly ache once or twice a week, it lasts no longer than an hour. She attends school every day now and is participating again in all her extracurricular activities.”

Abdominal migraines occur in two to four percent of children, usually between the ages of four and 10 years old. Symptoms may improve during the teenage years, but may also evolve into the more typical form of migraine headaches. Abdominal migraines are a part of a larger spectrum of disorders called functional gastrointestinal (or gut) disorders, which are typically triggered by emotional stressors without a visible change in the gut. To identify these disorders, it’s always best to seek medical advice.

“Brooke is typically reserved and doesn’t like going to the doctor, but Dr. Patton explains issues in a way that helps her open up and ask questions,” LaGiglia explained. “It’s such a warm and inviting environment.”

The Beverly resident added, “It’s also convenient to have a pediatric gastroenterology specialist right in our neighborhood.”

The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s at Little Company of Mary Hospital is located in the Mary Potter Physicians Pavilion, 2850 W. 95th Street, Suite 12, Evergreen Park. To make an appointment, call 1-844-826-5264 (1-844-UCM-LCMH).

On Wednesday, February 3rd, Dr. Patton will lead a seminar on “Managing Your Child’s Food Allergies for a Better Quality of Life,” with registered dietician at LCMH, Lisa Micetich. Parents and children will learn strategies for coping with food allergies and intolerances from a “gut” perspective. The FREE seminar will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Little Company of Mary Hospital (2800 West 95th Street, North Pavilion Link, first floor, room N1702/N1703). Children are welcome, and a light meal with personalized, allergy-friendly options will be served. RSVP at 1-888-824-0200 or

(Left to right) Tiffany Patton, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist; Brooke LaGiglia; and Mariellyn LaGiglia, RN, BSN

(Left to right) Tiffany Patton, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist; Brooke LaGiglia; and Mariellyn LaGiglia, RN, BSN

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