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What Is a Meckel's Diverticulum?

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  • Written By: Dulce Corazon
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 April 2014
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A meckel’s diverticulum is a condition characterized by the presence of a pouch in the wall of the intestines. It is a common malformation in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), which occurs during fetal growth. Many individuals born with the condition are usually asymptomatic, meaning they do not have any symptoms. In some patients however, a meckel's diverticulum or diverticula if there are more than one present, can bleed, cause obstruction, or result in ulcer development.

Symptoms of meckel's diverticulum include abdominal pain, vomiting, and nausea. The diverticulum usually produces acid, which may develop into peptic ulcer disease (PUD), a condition where sores develop in the stomach lining due to excessive production of acid in the area. If PUD is not treated early, it can perforate or cause a hole in the stomach. This will cause stomach waste to leak out to the abdominal space and cause peritonitis, which is the infection of the GIT. Early diagnosis of meckel's diverticulum, therefore, is often important to reduce the risk of these complications.

Many laboratory procedures are frequently done to evaluate the GIT. A blood test is usually requested to check for infection and anemia, or low red blood cell count. Stool examination is also performed to check for any occult or hidden blood.

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Some diagnostic imaging tests are also done. One is the abdominal ultrasound to visualize the entire GIT for possible occlusions in the gut caused by a meckel's diverticulum. A barium enema is also helpful in giving a more precise look at the GIT. It is usually done by making the patient ingest a dye to effectively visualize the affected intestines.

Gastroenterologists, doctors who specialize in diseases of the GIT, generally treat patients with meckel's diverticulum. They may refer patients for a laparoscopy. Laparoscopy is a procedure where surgeons make small incisions in the abdomen and insert some probes equipped with a camera and other necessary equipment. Through this procedure, surgeons can usually evaluate the GIT for obstruction and bleeding, as well as initiate treatment.

Aside from the laparoscopy technique, another treatment option is abdominal surgery. It is usually performed by making an incision in the abdomen, which allows surgeons to enter the GIT and remove the diverticulum or diverticula. The major goals of treatment are to address the complications and prevent others from occurring. After the removal of meckel's diverticulum, patients usually gain full recovery and become free from symptoms.

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