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What is a Meckel’s diverticulum?
A Meckel’s diverticulum is a small pouch on the wall of the lower part of the small intestine (bowel). A normal intestine does not have a pouch. The condition is congenital, which means it is present at birth. It occurs in about 2% of the population.
Symptoms of a Meckel’s diverticulum
Most people who have a Meckel’s diverticulum have no symptoms. Only about 1 in 25 people who are born with it have problems. Symptoms vary by age. Infants and children may have bleeding from the rectum. Sometimes blood can be seen in the stool. In adults, the intestine may become blocked. Symptoms of this are stomach pain and vomiting. Other symptoms include fever, constipation, decreased ability to pass gas, and swelling of the stomach.
What causes a Meckel’s diverticulum?
A Meckel’s diverticulum is formed when the fetus is in the womb. The pouch is made up of leftover tissue from the baby’s digestive tract.
How is a Meckel’s diverticulum diagnosed?
Although a Meckel’s diverticulum exists at birth, doctors do not test for it. Contact your doctor if you or your child develops symptoms. The doctor can do a test called a Meckel’s scan. For the test, the doctor injects a fluid into your body that can be seen by a special camera. If you have a diverticulum, the fluid will gather around the pouch. This allows the doctor to confirm a diagnosis.
Can a Meckel’s diverticulum be prevented or avoided?
You cannot prevent or avoid a Meckel’s diverticulum.
Meckel’s diverticulum treatment
Treatment for a Meckel’s diverticulum is needed for people who have symptoms. This may include surgery, as a last resort, to remove the pouch and repair the intestine. Risks of surgery include bleeding, swelling, tearing, and folding of the intestines.
Living with a Meckel’s diverticulum
People who don’t have symptoms can be monitored by their doctor. People who have surgery to remove the diverticulum often recover to live a full life. The pouch does not grow back.
Questions to ask your doctor
- What type of treatment do I need? Will I have to have surgery?
- What are the benefits and risks of surgery?
- Is there medicine I can take to relieve my symptoms?
- Are my children at risk of being born with a Meckel’s diverticulum?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.