Meckel's Diverticulum

Meckel's diverticulum is a pouch of the small intestine that occurs only in some people. The Meckel's diverticulum may be related to some complications, some of them very serious.


Meckel's diverticulum occurs in about 2% of the population and it is the remnant of fetal tissue, which connects the embryonic digestive tract to the yolk sac. Usually, this structure degenerates and disappears during the prenatal development but in some people it persists as a bag-like intestinal pouch.


Meckel's diverticulum itself is asymptomatic and the majority of people living with the diverticulum without knowing about its existence. It may get complicated by bleeding, which is followed by finding red or dark blood in stool. The mucous membrane of Meckel's diverticulum may contain cells of stomach mucosa, which produce hydrochloric acid. This can damage the surrounding small intestinal mucosa and form a bleeding peptic ulcer.  In addition to bleeding, Meckel's diverticulum may cause occasional abdominal pain and serious intestinal obstruction.


It is not easy to state the right diagnosis. Meckel's diverticulum is often found incidentally during abdominal surgery, which is performed for an entirely different reason. The best diagnostic method is probably the enteroclysis (or CT enteroclysis), which reveals the pouch protruding from the small intestine. Quite interesting is also examination that involves application of radioisotope technetium and monitoring its concentration in the tissues. Technetium accumulates in the gastric mucosa, which may be present in the diverticulum (but not always!).


Meckel's diverticulum is usually not treated when found incidentally. In case of any complication, the primary therapeutic method is a surgical intervention with removal of the pouch.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources