Meckel’s Diverticulum

Meckel’s diverticulum is a pouch on the wall of the lower part of the intestine that is present at birth. The tissue is left over in the unborn baby’s digestive tract. This tissue is different from the tissue in the small intestines and it makes acid like the stomach. Because the lining in the intestine is not used to acid, an ulcer forms. The ulcer can break open (rupture), causing the waste in the intestine to leak into the area around the belly (abdominal cavity) and cause a serious infection. The intestine can also be blocked by Meckel’s diverticulum and digested food can’t pass through.

Meckel’s diverticulum is the most common birth defect of the digestive system and occurs in about 2% of all infants. Only a very small percentage of children develop symptoms. Boys develop symptoms three times more than girls, and children over the age of 10 years old rarely develop symptoms.

Symptoms

When an ulcer develops in the intestine, it can bleed and cause a serious problem for a child. The symptom most often seen is a large amount of dark red blood from the rectum. Passing the blood is usually not painful, but some children can have abdominal pain. In adults, the symptoms may be stomach pain, vomiting, stomach swelling, fever, or constipation as a result of a blockage.

If a child passes blood or has blood in their stool, and complains a lot with abdominal pain, contact your doctor immediately.

Diagnosis/Testing

Symptoms of Meckel’s diverticulum may be the same as other medical conditions. In addition to getting a medical history and a physical exam, there are several tests that can be done:

  • Blood test – to check the red blood cell count (anemia), or to check for infection.
  • Stool smear – to check for blood
  • Meckel’s Diverticulum Scan

Treatment

The treatment for a child is decided on by the doctor. If there is bleeding, the doctor will usually decide on an operation (surgery) to remove the problem area (diverticulum). After surgery the doctor could give the child some medicine for pain and talk about the child’s diet and activities at home (bath, etc).

One of our dieticians is available to help with the child’s diet. Please contact 546-3888 to arrange an appointment.