Meckel diverticulum

When the intestinal tract forms in the fetus, a number of possible abnormalities may arise. One of these is the formation of duplicate sections of the small intestine. A particular duplication known as a Meckel diverticulum arises is the mid-portion of the small intestine and for some reason tends to contain stomach lining cells (mucosa) which obviously do not belong there.

About 2-3% of all humans are born with this abnormality, and obviously live a long and healthy life with it present. Some Meckel diverticula are inexplicably lined with stomach lining cells which secrete acid. Since the small intestine has no protection against this acid, eventually a bleeding ulcer will arise. Then brick-colored, or currant jelly colored stools are passed. Sometimes bright red blood, often a large amount, appears in the child's stool. This most commonly happens in the first two years of life, but can rarely occur up to age ten or so.

A test known as a Meckel scan is usually done to confirm the diagnosis. A radioisotope is given intravenously to the child, and reveals the location of the bleeding on an isotope scan (the amount of radiation involved, like all isotope scans, is truly miniscule and harmless).

The curative treatment is obviously surgical removal of the section of intestine with the abnormal diverticulum and its associated bleeders.

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