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Information from Your Family Doctor

Meckel's Diverticulum


Am Fam Physician. 2000 Feb 15;61(4):1044.

  See related article on Meckel's diverticulum.

What is Meckel's diverticulum?

Meckel's diverticulum (say: die-ver-tic-yu-lum) is a small pouch about the size of your thumb. The pouch is on the wall of the lower part of your small intestine (bowel). It's left over from a fetus' umbilical cord and intestines. It occurs in one out of 50 people.

What problems might Meckel's diverticulum produce?

Most people who have a Meckel's diverticulum have no problems. Only about one in 25 persons who are born with it have problems. These problems vary by age. In infants and children, the problem is usually bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract. Sometimes blood can be seen in the stool.

In adults, the intestine may become blocked. If this happens, the person may have stomach pain and vomiting. Other symptoms include fever, constipation and swelling of the stomach.

Should I be tested for this problem?

Currently, there is no safe, simple way to test for Meckel's diverticulum. Since most people who have Meckel's diverticulum don't have any problems, it is hard to detect. When Meckel's diverticulum does cause problems, it can usually be found by taking x-rays of the intestines.

How is Meckel's diverticulum treated?

People who have Meckel's diverticulum but are not having any problems are usually just observed. This varies with the person's age, and whether they are having other problems. Sometimes the doctor may want a patient to have surgery to remove the diverticulum, and then the intestine is repaired.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


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