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Meckel Diverticulum

What is Meckel diverticulum?

Meckel diverticulum is a small pouch in the wall of the intestine. It’s near where the small and large intestines meet.

The pouch is left over from when your child’s digestive system was forming in pregnancy. It isn’t made of the same type of tissue as the small intestine. Instead, it’s made of the same type of tissue found in the stomach or the pancreas.

This condition is the most common birth defect of the digestive system. It happens to about 1 in 50 babies.

What causes Meckel diverticulum?

Meckel diverticulum happens during pregnancy. It happens when your baby's digestive tract is forming.

Healthcare providers don't know what causes this condition. It happens when tissue that’s normally reabsorbed by the body isn’t reabsorbed. This forms the Meckel diverticulum.

Who is at risk for Meckel diverticulum?

This issue is more likely to happen when other parts of your baby’s body also don’t form right. These can include your baby’s belly button (navel), digestive tract, nervous system, or cardiovascular system.

What are the symptoms of Meckel diverticulum?

This condition often doesn’t cause symptoms. The most common symptom is dark red blood coming out of your child’s rectum. This often isn’t painful, but some children have stomach pain. Your child’s stool may also look like jelly and be brick-colored.

Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if your child has blood or bloody stool coming out of their rectum.

The symptoms of this condition may look like symptoms of other health problems. Make sure your child sees a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is Meckel diverticulum diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child's health history. The provider will also give your child an exam. Your child may also need these tests:

Blood test

This test checks for low red blood cells (anemia) or infection. Your child may also give a stool sample. Your child’s healthcare provider will check the sample for blood.

Wireless capsule endoscopy or double balloon enteroscopy

These tests put tiny cameras into the small intestine. They look for problems.

Meckel scan

A substance called technetium is injected into your child's bloodstream. Your child will get this though an intravenous (IV) line. The substance can be seen on a nuclear scan (similar to an X-ray) in parts of the body where there’s stomach tissue, including the Meckel diverticulum.

Rectosigmoidoscopy

A small, flexible tube with a camera is inserted into your child's rectum and last part of the large intestine (sigmoid colon). Your child’s healthcare provider will look at the inside of the rectum and large intestine. The provider will check for bleeding, blockage, and other problems.

How is Meckel diverticulum treated?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

If your child’s Meckel diverticulum is causing symptoms, such as bleeding, your child may need surgery to remove it. The surgeon will make an incision into your child's belly. Then the healthcare provider will take out the abnormal tissue. Your child will have stitches or a special tape to close the incision. Your child will be under anesthesia for this surgery.

Your child may need to take special care after the surgery. You’ll get instructions from your child’s healthcare provider. Your child may need to eat a special diet, take pain medicines, and be careful during bathing and other activities.

What are possible complications of Meckel diverticulum?

The tissue in Meckel diverticulum can make acid, just like the tissue of the stomach does. The intestinal lining is sensitive to the acid. As a result, an ulcer can form. The ulcer can cause major bleeding. This can cause anemia. If your child loses a lot of blood, you child can go into shock. This is life-threatening.

The ulcer can also rupture. This can cause waste products from the intestine to leak into your child’s belly. It can lead to a serious infection called peritonitis. Your child’s intestine can also become blocked by Meckel diverticulum.

Living with Meckel diverticulum

After surgery, your child likely won’t have any long-term problems from Meckel diverticulum.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if your child has blood or bloody stool coming out of their rectum.

Key points about Meckel diverticulum

  • Meckel diverticulum is a small pouch in the wall of the intestine. It’s near where the small and large intestines meet.

  • The pouch is left over from when your child’s digestive system was forming in pregnancy.

  • This condition often doesn’t cause symptoms. The most common symptom is dark-red blood coming out of your child’s rectum.

  • Most children will need surgery to remove Meckel diverticulum.

  • After surgery, your child likely won’t have any long-term problems from this condition.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.

  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.

  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.

  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jen Lehrer MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2021
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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