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Volvulus - childhood

Childhood volvulus; Abdominal pain - volvulus

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Causes

A birth defect called intestinal malrotation can make an infant more likely to develop a volvulus. However, a volvulus can occur without this condition present.

Volvulus due to malrotation occurs most often in the first year of life.

Definition

A volvulus is a twisting of the intestine that can occur in childhood. It causes a blockage that may cut off blood flow. Part of the intestine may be damaged as a result.

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider may order the following tests to diagnose the condition:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most of the time, prompt diagnosis and treatment of volvulus leads to a good outcome.

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

Possible Complications

Possible complications of volvulus are:

Symptoms

Common symptoms of volvulus are:

Symptoms are very often severe. The infant in such cases is taken to the emergency room. Early treatment can be critical for survival.

Treatment

In some cases, colonoscopy can be used to correct the problem. A colonoscopy uses a flexible tube with a light on the end that is passed into the colon (large bowel) through the rectum.

Emergency surgery is often needed to repair the volvulus. A surgical cut is made in the abdomen. The bowels are untwisted and the blood supply is 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 then sewn together. Or, they are used to form a connection of the intestines to the outside of the body (colostomy or ileostomy). Bowel contents can be removed through this opening.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

This is an emergency condition. The symptoms of childhood volvulus develop quickly and the child will become very ill. Get medical attention right away if this happens.

Review Date: 7/22/2016
Reviewed By: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist at Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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