What is Meckel’s diverticulum? — Meckel’s diverticulum is a small pouch on the wall of the small intestine (figure 1). People who have this condition were born with it. The pouch is made of tissue that was part of their digestive system when they were still in their mother’s womb. This tissue goes away before birth in most people, but a few people still have it.
What are the symptoms of Meckel’s diverticulum? — Many people have a Meckel’s diverticulum and never have symptoms. About half the people who do have symptoms are children younger than 10 years old.
Symptoms can include:
●Blood in bowel movements – They might look red, or black and sticky.
●Not passing gas or having bowel movements – This can mean something is blocking the intestine.
Is there a test for Meckel’s diverticulum? — Yes. The doctor or nurse will do an exam and learn about the symptoms. He or she can also order tests. These can include:
●A special imaging test called a “Meckel scan” - In this test, you get a small amount of radioactive material through a thin tube called an “IV.” The tube goes into a vein. The radioactive material helps doctors see certain types of tissue on imaging tests. It can show abnormal tissue that is often in a Meckel’s diverticulum. A day or 2 before a Meckel scan, the doctor might give you medicine to take by mouth. This medicine can help the Meckel scan work better.
●Other tests to look at the intestines – These can include an “ultrasound” or “CT scan.” These are imaging tests that create pictures of the inside of the body. If you have symptoms of a Meckel’s diverticulum, but the Meckel scan does not show abnormal tissue, you might have these other tests.
How is Meckel’s diverticulum treated? — If it causes symptoms, doctors take it out with surgery.
Doctors sometimes find a Meckel’s diverticulum by accident. This can happen if someone has surgery in the belly for another condition. If they find it in a child, they usually take it out. This can keep it from causing symptoms in the future. If doctors find a Meckel’s diverticulum in an adult, they sometimes leave it if it is not causing symptoms.