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When Your Child Has a Meckel’s Diverticulum

A Meckel’s diverticulum is a small pouch of tissue on the intestine (bowel). It forms when the baby is still growing in the womb. A Meckel’s diverticulum may bleed. It may also become infected. Or the intestine can twist around it. When these conditions occur, the Meckel’s diverticulum must be removed.

Outline of infant showing digestive system and location of Meckel's diverticulum.

What Are the Symptoms of Meckel’s Diverticulum?

Many people with a Meckel’s diverticulum never have symptoms. When a problem does occur, it’s often around age 2. The most common signs of a problem include:

  • Blood in stool

  • Anemia (a health problem due to blood loss). Signs of anemia include feeling unwell, sleepy, or less energetic than normal; and pallor (very pale skin)

  • Signs of infection (fever, chills, or pain or tenderness in the abdomen)

How Is Meckel’s Diverticulum Diagnosed?

Most Meckel’s aren’t found unless they cause symptoms. If a Meckel’s is suspected, tests that may be done include:

  • Blood tests: These check for signs of bleeding or infection.

  • Stool sample: This may be taken to check for blood.

  • Meckel’s scan: A special dye is injected into the child’s bloodstream through an IV (intravenous) line. This dye may make the Meckel’s tissue show up on a scan.

  • Ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to make images. In some cases, a Meckel’s can be seen on an ultrasound image.

  • Arteriogram: Special X-ray test where dye is injected into the arteries to see if bleeding can be found. This may be done if bleeding is significant and the sources can't be found.

  • Other tests: Imaging tests such as an x-ray or CT scan may be done to rule out other problems.

How Is a Meckel’s Diverticulum Treated?

If the child has no symptoms, treatment might not be needed. But if the Meckel’s diverticulum is causing symptoms, it will likely be removed with surgery.

What Are the Long-Term Concerns?

Unless it causes symptoms, a Meckel’s usually isn’t a problem. Once the diverticulum is removed, most children have no further symptoms.


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