Gastrointestinal and feeding difficulties in CHARGE syndrome: A review from head-to-toe
CHARGE syndrome is an autosomal dominant genetic condition that is primarily diagnosed based on clinical features, with genetic testing available for confirmation. The CHARGE mnemonic stands for some of the common characteristics: coloboma, heart defects, atresia/stenosis of the choanae, retardation of growth/development, genitourinary anomalies, and ear abnormalities (CHARGE). However, many of the common clinical features are not captured by this mnemonic, including cranial nerve dysfunction, considered by some to be one of the major diagnostic criteria. Over 90% of individuals experience feeding and gastrointestinal dysfunction, which carries great morbidity and mortality. The aim of this review is to examine the nature of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and feeding difficulties in CHARGE syndrome, focusing on their underlying pathology, associated investigations, and available treatment options. We also provide information on available tools (for parents, clinicians, and researchers) that are important additions to the lifelong healthcare management of every individual with CHARGE syndrome. We review how cranial nerve dysfunction is one of the most important characteristics underlying the pervasive GI and feeding dysfunction, and discuss the need for future research on gut innervation and motility in this genetic disorder.