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Meckel Diverticulum

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The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Dec 2019| Content last modified Dec 2019
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What is a Meckel diverticulum?

A Meckel diverticulum (also called a Meckel’s diverticulum) is a small pouch in the lining of the small intestine. Some babies have it at birth. The diverticulum doesn’t usually cause symptoms, so most people don’t know they have it.

Meckel Diverticulum

Meckel Diverticulum
  • Some babies or children with Meckel diverticulum may have painless bleeding that shows up in their stool (poop)

  • Sometimes, the diverticulum can get infected

  • Doctors will do surgery to remove a diverticulum that bleeds a lot or causes other symptoms

What are the symptoms of a Meckel diverticulum?

Meckel diverticulum doesn’t cause symptoms in most people who have it. However, sometimes a child has symptoms such as: 

  • Stools that look bright red, rust, purple, or black because of a bleeding diverticulum—this is most common in children under age 5

  • Sometimes, severe belly pain, belly tenderness, and throwing up if the diverticulum gets infected or inflamed—this is called diverticulitis

How can doctors tell if my child has Meckel diverticulum?

If doctors suspect your child has a Meckel diverticulum, they may do tests such as:

  • A Meckel scan, where doctors will give your child a tiny bit of a harmless radioactive substance through a vein and take pictures of the small intestine with a special camera

  • Video capsule endoscopy, where your child swallows a tiny camera that takes pictures as it passes through the digestive tract, including the intestines

  • Endoscopy, where doctors place a small flexible viewing tube up your child’s anus (the opening in your buttocks where stool comes out) to see the small intestine

How do doctors treat a Meckel diverticulum?

Doctors won’t treat a diverticulum unless it's causing symptoms.

If your child has symptoms such as severe bleeding or pain:

  • Doctors will do surgery to remove the diverticulum

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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