Pediatric Gastroenterology

US News and World Report Ranking Badge
Valentina Shakhnovich, MD examines a patient at Children's Mercy Kansas City's Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology.

Pediatric Gastroenterology

The Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology is nationally recognized for providing excellent care for children with intestinal, liver, and nutritional disorders at several locations throughout the Kansas City area. Our experienced team provides services based on the latest research to give patients the best possible treatment experience.

Gastroenterology Team

Our care team includes board-certified and board-eligible pediatric gastroenterologists, clinical psychologists, pediatric gastroenterology fellows, and advanced practice nurses. Our care team also includes pediatric nurses in the clinic and procedure room, nutrition support certified nurses, dietitians, social workers and pharmacists. Read more about our faculty and staff.

Research Highlights

Our commitment to providing the best medical care goes hand in hand with our dedication to discovering new and more effective treatment methods through clinical research. Current research areas include abdominal pain, inflammatory bowel disease, liver care, polyposis, GI issues in children with autism, and many other areas. We also collaborate with the Genome Center to diagnose gastroenterology conditions at the genetic level.

Abdominal Pain Research

Our Abdominal Pain Program is an active research program focused on generating and sharing new knowledge about chronic abdominal pain in children with the hope to make treatment available and effective for everyone.

Innovation in Health Care Delivery and Clinical Outcomes

The system of care delivery influences the availability and effectiveness of any intervention for kids with chronic abdominal pain. We have studied the current understanding and practices of primary care pediatricians, pediatric gastroenterologists, and clinical psychologists, including current multidisciplinary care models involving these disciplines. Current research focuses on interactive minimal contact interventions as adjunctive interventions, the use of mobile technology to inform care, and the use of quality improvement methodology to provide disruptive transformation in the primary care office. 

Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Pharmacology and therapeutic response to various medications is a new and important area of study. We are especially interested in understanding the mechanism of action for those medications targeting eosinophils and mast cells, and have published reviews in this area. Current work includes several clinical trials to further define the role of medications in the treatment of abdominal pain, as well as systematic review of data from our clinical population to define predictors of response in the interest of further refining our individualized medicine approach.

Biopsychosocial Relationships and Mechanisms

Chronic abdominal pain is best understood through a biopsychosocial model (see figure below) which states that pain and other symptoms are the result of varying contributions from, and interactions between biological factors (e.g. inflammation, mechanical disturbances, gut flora, hypersensitivity), psychological factors (e.g. mood, anxiety, coping skills, sleep), and social factors (e.g. interactions with parents, siblings, teachers, and peers). A major focus of our research has been understanding the roles and interactions between these various components.

Biopsychosocial Ab Pain

Notable Accomplishments 

  • 70 - 80 percent of patients treated for chronic abdominal pain report a decrease in symptoms within six weeks.
  • Our liver transplant services and outcomes that rank among the best in the nation.
  • Our hereditary polyposis clinic uses genetic testing to improve care for children with rare hereditary syndromes.
  • U.S. News and World Report has ranked Children's Mercy among the top pediatric gastroenterology programs in the nation.

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