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Meckel's diverticulum

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

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

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

Symptoms

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

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

Signs 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 surgically removed. The ends of the intestine are sewn back together.

You may need iron replacement to correct anemia. If you have a lot of bleeding, you may need a blood transfusion.

Expectations (prognosis)

You can expect a full recovery with surgery.

Complications

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

Calling your health care provider

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

References

Kahn E, Daum F. Anatomy, histology, embryology, and developmental anomalies of the small and large intestine. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 96.

Updated: 10/8/2012

George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.


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