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Meckel diverticulum

A Meckel diverticulum is a pouch on the wall of the lower part of the small intestine that is present at birth (congenital). The diverticulum may contain tissue similar to that of the stomach or pancreas.

Causes

A Meckel diverticulum is tissue left over from when the baby's digestive tract was forming before birth. A small number of people have a Meckel diverticulum. However, only a few develop symptoms.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the abdomen that can be mild or severe
  • Blood in the stool
  • Nausea and vomiting

Symptoms often occur during the first few years of life. However, they may not start until adulthood.

Exams and Tests

You may have the following tests:

Treatment

You may need surgery to remove the diverticulum if bleeding develops. The segment of small intestine that contains the diverticulum is taken out. The ends of the intestine are sewn back together.

You may need to take iron supplements to treat anemia. You may need a blood transfusion if you have a lot of bleeding,

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most people recover fully from surgery and will not have the problem come back. Complications from the surgery are also unlikely.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

  • Excess bleeding (hemorrhage) from the diverticulum
  • Folding of the intestines (intussusception), a type of blockage
  • Peritonitis
  • Tear (perforation) of the bowel at the diverticulum

When to Contact a Medical Professional

See your health care provider right away if your child passes blood or bloody stool or has ongoing abdominal pain.

References

Bass LM, Wershil BK. Anatomy, histology, embryology, and developmental anomalies of the small and large intestine. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 98.

Kleigman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF. Intestinal duplications, meckel diverticulum, and other remnants of the omphalomesenteric duct. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 331.

Review Date 8/20/2016

Updated by: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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