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Colonic polyps and polyposis syndromes in pediatric patients.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Gastrointestinal polyps are commonly encountered during childhood and are one of the most common causes of rectal bleeding in this age group. Most polyps are benign and located in the colon, with the most frequent type being juvenile polyps. However, in older pediatric patients, if multiple polyps are present, in patients who have a positive family history, or if polyps are located outside of the colon, either adenomatous polyps or polyps associated with genetic abnormalities are more common.

RECENT FINDINGS: Imaging techniques such as ultrasound and computed tomographic colonoscopy have recently been utilized to identify simple juvenile colonic polyps in children with rectal bleeding in whom there is a high index of suspicion. Colonoscopy with polypectomy is still required for histologic evaluation and resection of the polyp. There have been significant advances in genetic testing and management of hereditary gastrointestinal cancer syndromes with onset in childhood or adolescence that may ultimately reduce long-term morbidity and mortality. In addition to enhanced gastrointestinal and extraintestinal malignancy screening for affected individuals, specific gene mutations within a given condition such as adenomatous polyposis coli may predict clinical course and timing of specific interventions such as colectomy. In other conditions such as phosphatase and tensin homolog hamartoma tumor syndrome, phenotype may not be predicted by genotype.

SUMMARY: Pediatricians, pediatric gastroenterologists, and adult gastroenterologists caring for children should understand how to differentiate benign polyps in the pediatric age group from those associated with a higher risk of complications including recurrence risk and risk of development of intestinal or extraintestinal malignancy. Recent advances in genetic testing, as well as development of consensus guidelines, are key in the identification, screening, and follow-up of children and adolescents with polyposis syndromes.

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