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Diseases reference index «Volvulus - childhood»

A volvulus is a twisting of the intestine that can occur in childhood. It causes a blockage, and may cut off blood flow and damage part of the intestine.

Causes

A birth defect called intestinal malrotation can make infants more likely to develop a volvulus. However, a volvulus can occur without malrotation.

Volvulus due to malrotation often occurs early in life, usually in the first year.

Symptoms

  • Bloody or dark red stools
  • Constipation or difficulty releasing stools
  • Distended abdomen
  • Pain or tenderness in the abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shock
  • Vomiting green material

Symptoms are usually severe enough that infants are taken early to the emergency room, which can be critical for survival.

Exams and Tests

  • Barium enema
  • Blood tests to check electrolytes
  • CT scan
  • Stool guaiac (shows blood in the stool)
  • Upper GI

Treatment

Emergency surgery is needed to repair the volvulus. A surgical cut is made in the abdomen. The bowels are untwisted and the blood supply restored.

If a small segment of bowel is dead from a lack of blood flow (necrotic), it is removed. The ends of the bowel are sewn back together. Or, they are used to form a connection of the intestines to the outside, through which bowel contents can be removed (colostomy or ileostomy).

Outlook (Prognosis)

Diagnosing and treating volvulus quickly generally leads to a good outcome.

If the bowel is dead (necrotic), the outlook is poor. The situation may be life-threatening, depending on how much of the bowel is dead.

Possible Complications

  • Secondary peritonitis
  • Short bowel syndrome (after removal of a large part of the small bowel)

When to Contact a Medical Professional

This is an emergency condition. The symptoms of childhood volvulus develop quickly and the child becomes severely ill. Get medical attention immediately.

Alternative Names

Childhood volvulus

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