When the babies are born, doctors carry out a complete control and carry out different tests to check that everything is correct. There are, however, anomalies that are not detectable unless a thorough examination is carried out, such as the Meckel's diverticulum in children. If you want to know what it is, its symptoms and treatments, keep reading!
Meckel's diverticulum is the most common congenital anomaly of the gastrointestinal tract (2%). It is a small pouch-like bump that protrudes from the wall of the small intestine, which is present in some children from birth. About 2 to 3% of babies are born with Meckel's diverticulum. Most children - it is more common in boys - have no symptoms, but sometimes painless rectal bleeding occurs or the diverticulum becomes infected.
Meckel's diverticulum it is a remnant of the omphalomesenteric duct. During embryonic development, this duct is in charge of communicating a structure called the yolk sac (which is located outside the embryo) with the primitive intestine. As the development of the embryo progresses, both the yolk sac and the omphalomesenteric duct disappear spontaneously, leaving a small percentage of the general population with some remnant of said duct.
Most children with Meckel's diverticulum have no symptoms, and many adults find out that they have the condition when it is discovered during surgery for another reason. Symptoms generally appear during the first decade of life (usually present before the age of two).
The manifestations that it produces originate due to the content of these diverticula, which in their majority contain gastric (stomach) mucosa, causing ulcers with bleeding. Meckel's diverticulum is more common in patients with congenital malformations, especially omphalocele, esophageal atresia, and anorectal malformations. The most commons are:
- painless rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain.
- Bloody stools that are dark red to brick red or have a jelly-like consistency (appearance of currant jam due to the mixture of blood and mucus).
- Vomiting and irritability.
- Palpable mass in the abdomen.
- Abdominal distension.
When the intestine develops an ulcer, heavy bleeding can occur, leading to anemia (low levels of red blood cells). If a large amount of blood is lost, the child may go into shock, which is a life-threatening situation. A serious infection (peritonitis) can also occur if the intestine is perforated and waste leaks into the abdomen, causing a bowel obstruction.
A good physical examination and complete medical history is of the utmost importance. Imaging tests can be performed to evaluate the intestinal tract, but a thorough evaluation is especially important as it is confused with other pathologies.
- Blood test.
- Imaging studies such as abdominal x-ray or ultrasound.
- If doctors think the rectal bleeding could be a Meckel diverticulum, a test called a Meckel scan may be done. It consists of administering a small amount of a harmless radioactive substance through the vein, which is captured by the cells of the diverticulum, which can be observed through a radiosensitive detection camera (this study is the most accurate for the detection of Mckel's diverticulum ).
- A colonoscopy can also be performed if the diagnosis is suspected.
If a diverticulum has no symptoms, no treatment is necessary, but if the diverticulum causes bleeding, obstruction, or persistent symptoms, it must be removed surgically (surgery). Once a Meckel's diverticulum is repaired, there are usually no long-term problems.
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