Meckel’s Diverticulum

Overview

What is Meckel’s Diverticulum?

Meckel’s diverticulum (say: “die-ver-tic-yu-lum”) is a small pouch on the wall of the lower part of the small intestine (bowel) and is usually present at birth. A normal intestine doesn’t have this pouch. It occurs in about 2% of the population.

Symptoms

What problems might Meckel’s diverticulum cause?

Most people who have a Meckel’s diverticulum have no symptoms or problems. Only about 1 in 25 persons who are born with it will have problems. These problems vary by age. In infants and children, the problem is usually bleeding from the rectum. Sometimes blood can be seen in the stool. In adults, the intestine may become blocked. If this happens, the person may have stomach pain and vomiting. Other symptoms include fever, constipation and swelling of the stomach.

Diagnosis & Tests

Should I be tested for this problem?

There is no need to test for Meckel’s diverticulum unless you develop uncomfortable symptoms. When Meckel’s diverticulum causes problems, it can usually be found by a test called a Meckel’s scan. For this test, your doctor will inject a fluid into your body that can only be seen by a special camera. The substance will gather around any present diverticulum, allowing your doctor to make a diagnosis.

Treatment

How is Meckel’s diverticulum treated?

People who have Meckel’s diverticulum but are not having any problems do not need treatment. Treatment for people who have symptoms includes surgery to remove the diverticulum and repair the intestine.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What causes Meckel’s diverticulum? Was I born with it?
  • Are there lifestyle changes I can make that will relieve the symptoms of Meckel’s diverticulum?
  • Will I have to have surgery for Meckel’s diverticulum? Are there other options?
  • Is there medicine that will relieve the symptoms of Meckel’s diverticulum?
  • Are my children at risk of Meckel’s diverticulum?

Citations

  • Meckel’s Diverticulum by JP Martin, M.D., PD Connor, PH.D., and K Charles, J.D.( 02/15/00, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000215/1037.html)