Child Health Matters: Understanding Meckel’s Diverticulum

Meckel Diverticulum

Is your child’s tummy troubling them? Experiencing pain, bleeding, or odd bowel habits? It could be Meckel diverticulum, a small pouch present in some children’s intestines since birth. Most children with Meckel’s live happy and healthy lives without any problems. However, for some, this hidden pouch can cause unexpected issues like abdominal pain ranging from mild discomfort to severe cramping. These disruptions can not only affect a child’s daily activities and sleep but also create stress and worry for parents seeking answers and solutions for their child’s well-being. But with early diagnosis and treatment, most children with Meckel diverticulum can experience a full recovery and get back to enjoying life without limitations. 

So, let’s explore the Meckel diverticulum in detail and how it can be a concern for both the child and his parents.

What is Meckel Diverticulum?

It’s a congenital condition, meaning it’s present at birth. It’s formed from leftover tissue from the digestive system’s development before birth. Unlike the rest of the intestine, this pouch is made of different tissue, similar to that found in the stomach or pancreas.

Sometimes, this pouch can cause problems. The tissue inside can make acid, just like the stomach. However, the intestine lining isn’t used to this acid, so it can get irritated and form an ulcer. If the ulcer breaks open, waste from the intestine can leak out into the abdomen, leading to a serious infection called peritonitis. Sometimes, the pouch can also block the intestine.

Who Can Get Meckel’s Diverticulum?

Meckel’s diverticulum is a congenital condition, meaning it’s present at birth. Although it’s not very common, doctors usually find it in 2-3% of babies and young children under the age of 2. If you experience symptoms like tummy pain, bleeding from your stomach or intestines, or blockages in your intestines, you should get it checked out, as Meckel’s diverticulum could be the cause

True Vs. False Meckel Diverticulum

There are two main types of diverticulum as follows:

  • True Diverticulum

This is the normal type of Meckel’s diverticulum. It consists of a little pouch that sticks out from the intestine. Furthermore, it is made up of all the layers of the intestinal wall.

  • False Diverticulum

This type is also known as a pseudodiverticulum. It lacks some or all of the layers of the intestinal wall and is composed mainly of mucosa and submucosa. These false diverticula aren’t as common and can sometimes be linked to inflammation or growth in the area.

What are the Causes of Meckel Diverticulum?

In the early stages of pregnancy, Meckel’s diverticulum forms in the baby. By the seventh week of pregnancy, the growing baby should usually absorb the vitelline duct, linking the growing baby to the yolk sac into the baby’s body. If this doesn’t happen completely, it leads to the development of Meckel’s diverticulum.

Meckel’s diverticulum might have cells from both the stomach and pancreas. The stomach cells can produce acid, which can result in ulcers and bleeding.

What are the Alarming Signs of Meckel Diverticulum?

Meckel Diverticulum symptoms usually show up during the first year of life, but they can happen later, too.

The Symptoms include

  1. Bleeding from the intestines, which might show up in the stool.
  2. Stomach pain and cramps.
  3. Tenderness around the belly button
  4. Swelling of the intestinal wall called Diverticulitis

The most common sign in children younger than five is bleeding. This happens because the diverticulum produces stomach acid, which leads to ulcers in the small intestine. Diverticulitis can occur at any age, but it’s more common in older children. When the small intestine swells, it can block the flow of food through the intestines, thus causing discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting

How to Diagnose Meckel Diverticulum?

Diagnosing Meckel’s diverticulum can be tricky because its symptoms, like vomiting and tummy pain, can happen with other conditions, too. But if your child’s pediatric surgeon thinks they might have Meckel’s diverticulum based on their symptoms, they’ll order some tests:

  • Blood Test

This test assesses whether the child is anaemic or has an infection. It also checks the stool sample for blood.

  • Meckel’s Scan

In this scan, a special substance called technetium is injected into a child’s bloodstream through a small tube. This substance then shows up on X-rays and helps our pediatric surgeon see if there’s any stomach tissue where it shouldn’t be, like in Meckel’s diverticulum.

  • Colonoscopy

In this procedure, a thin, flexible tube to which a tiny camera is attached on its end is inserted into the child’s rectum and sigmoid colon, the last part of the large intestine. The camera helps to look for bleeding, blockages, or other problems in these areas.

  • Wireless Capsule Endoscopy

In this test, the child swallows a small camera that can see inside the small intestine to determine where the bleeding is coming from. If the child is too young to swallow the pill, doctors can put it in the stomach while the child is asleep.

What are the Treatment Strategies for Meckel Diverticulum?

Meckel’s diverticulum treatment depends on various factors, including the presence of symptoms, complications, and overall child’s health. Common treatment approaches include

  • Medications

When Meckel’s diverticulum causes inflammation or infection, doctors may prescribe antibiotics to alleviate symptoms and prevent complications.

  • Surgical Removal (Diverticulectomy)

If Meckel’s diverticulum is symptomatic or associated with complications such as bleeding, obstruction, or inflammation, doctors may recommend surgical removal. Typically, surgeons perform this procedure either laparoscopically or through traditional open surgery.

During the surgery, your child will be asleep under general anesthesia while our skilled pediatric surgeon removes the abnormal tissue through a small incision in the abdomen. Afterwards, the wounds will be closed with stitches. You’ll receive personalized guidance on your child’s diet, pain relief, bathing, and activities at home to ensure a smooth recovery.

Deal with Meckel Diverticulum – A Hidden Health Concern

To wrap up, dealing with Meckel’s diverticulum can be a daunting journey for kids and their parents. The symptoms, like tummy pain and bleeding, can be scary, but there’s good news. With early help, most kids can feel better. Whether it’s medicine or laparoscopic surgery, there are ways to make things better. By learning more about this condition and working together, you can help every child with Meckel’s diverticulum feel happier and healthier.