Meckel's diverticulum natural history, complications and prognosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Intestinal torsions around the intestinal stalk may also occur, leading to obstruction, ischemia, and necrosis. If left untreated, [#]% of patients with [disease name] may progress to develop [manifestation 1], [manifestation 2], and [manifestation 3].


Common complications of [disease name] include [complication 1], [complication 2], and [complication 3].


Prognosis is generally excellent/good/poor, and the 1/5/10-year mortality/survival rate of patients with [disease name] is approximately [#]%.

Natural History, Complications, and Prognosis

Natural History

  • The symptoms of (disease name) usually develop in the first/ second/ third decade of life, and start with symptoms such as ___.
  • The symptoms of (disease name) typically develop ___ years after exposure to ___.
  • If left untreated, [#]% of patients with [disease name] may progress to develop [manifestation 1], [manifestation 2], and [manifestation 3].



  • Most common complication in patients with Meckel diverticulum
  • Accounts for one fourth of all complications
  • More commonly seen in:
    • Children younger than 2 years
    • Male sex
  • Presentation:
    • Patients present with the following symptoms:
      • Passage of bright red blood in the stools
      • May or may not be associated with:
        • Abdominal pain
        • Weakness
        • Anemia
      • Bleeding may be:
        • Minimal
        • Recurrent
        • Massive, shock-producing
      • Assessment of the rate of bleeding may be done on the basis of the following:
        • Quantity of blood lost in the stools
        • Appearance of the material passing through the rectum
        • Hemodynamic state
      • Characteristics of hemorrhage based on the appearance of stools include the following:
        • Brisk hemorrhage: bright red blood in the stools
        • Minor upper GI bleeding, associated with delayed intestinal transit causing alteration of blood: Tarry stools
        • Intussussception: Currant jelly stools with copious amounts of mucus due to bowel ischemia
        • Fissure-in-ano: Blood-streaked stools
      • The gastric mucosa found in the diverticulum may form a chronic ulcer and may also damage the adjacent ileal mucosa because of acid production. Ectopic gastric mucosa is found in about 50% of all Meckel diverticula; and three fourths of bleeding Meckel diverticula.
      • Perforation may occur, and the patient then presents with an acute abdomen, often associated with air under the diaphragm, best visualized on an erect chest radiograph.
      • When a patient presents with painless lower GI bleeding, Meckel diverticulum should always be suspected.
      • Panendoscopy helps exclude disease in the upper GI and colorectal regions, the two most common sites of GI bleeding.

Intestinal obstruction

  • observed in one fourth of patients with symptomatic Meckel diverticulum
  • Various mechanisms of intestinal obstruction occur with Meckel diverticulum as a causative factor. Because the omphalomesenteric duct may be attached to the abdominal wall by a fibrotic band, a volvulus of the small bowel around the band may occur. The diverticulum may also form the lead point of an intussusception and cause obstruction. Infrequently, a tumor arising in the wall of the diverticulum may form the lead point for intussusception. When incarcerated in an inguinal hernia, a Meckel diverticulum is called a Littré hernia. Patients with intestinal obstruction due to Meckel diverticulum present with abdominal pain, vomiting, and obstipation. Radiography of the abdomen may indicate an ileus or frank stepladder air-fluid levels, as observed in dynamic intestinal obstruction. In cases of intussusception, patients may also present with a palpable lump in the lower abdomen and currant jelly stools.


This condition develops in approximately 10-20% of patients with symptomatic Meckel diverticulum, occurring more often in the elderly population. Patients may present with symptoms of intermittent, crampy abdominal pain and tenderness in the periumbilical area. Perforation of the inflamed diverticulum leads to peritonitis. Stasis in the diverticulum, especially in one with a narrow neck, causes inflammation and secondary infection leading to diverticulitis. Diverticular inflammation can lead to adhesions, which cause intestinal obstruction.

Umbilical anomalies

These occur in up to 10% of patients and consist of fistulas, sinuses, cysts, and fibrous bands between the diverticulum and the umbilicus. A patient may present with a chronic discharging umbilical sinus superimposed by infection or excoriation of periumbilical skin. There may be a history of recurrent infection, sinus healing, or abdominal-wall abscess formation. When a fistula is present, intestinal mucosa may be identified on the skin. Cannulation and injection with radiographic contrast help to delineate the entire tract and aid in planning a surgical approach for cure. A discharging sinus should be approached surgically with a view toward correction. Exploratory laparotomy may be required. When found at laparotomy, a fibrous band should be excised because of the risk of internal herniation and volvulus.


This is the pathology least commonly associated with Meckel diverticulum and is reported in approximately 4-5% of complicated Meckel diverticulum cases. Of the various types of tumors reported, leiomyoma is the one that is most frequently found, followed by leiomyosarcoma, carcinoid tumor, and fibroma. One case of ectopic gastric adenocarcinoma has been reported. Lipoma and angioma have also been found. [4, 5]

Other complications

Other reported complications in Meckel diverticulum are vesicodiverticular fistulas, "daughter" diverticula (formation of a diverticulum within a Meckel diverticulum), and formation of stones and phytobezoar in the Meckel diverticulum. Children and infants are at the highest risk for complications, and for some reason, complications occur more often in males than females. Due to this, males are more frequently diagnosed with Meckel’s Diverticulum than females.

The possible complications with Meckel’s Diverticulum include:

A blockage in the intestines caused by folding of the intestines (intussusception)

Abnormal and excessive bleeding arising within the diverticulum

Injury to the diverticulum may result in perforation of the bowel wall

Inflammation of the peritoneum, which is a thin tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen

Rarely, tumors can occur within a Meckel’s Diverticulum. The most common tumor includes carcinoid tumors and gastrinomas. These tumors arise from abnormal collection of neuroendocrine cells or gastrin hormone producing cells


Prognosis of patients with Meckel's diverticulum is as follows: [1]


  1. "Meckel diverticulum Prognosis - Epocrates Online".
  2. Yagnik VD, Yagnik BD (2010). "Asymptomatic Meckel's diverticulum in adults: is diverticulectomy indicated?". Saudi J Gastroenterol. 16 (4): 306. doi:10.4103/1319-3767.70626. PMC 2995107. PMID 20871204.
  3. Zani A, Eaton S, Rees CM, Pierro A (2008). "Incidentally detected Meckel diverticulum: to resect or not to resect?". Ann. Surg. 247 (2): 276–81. doi:10.1097/SLA.0b013e31815aaaf8. PMID 18216533.
  4. Cullen JJ, Kelly KA, Moir CR, Hodge DO, Zinsmeister AR, Melton LJ (1994). "Surgical management of Meckel's diverticulum. An epidemiologic, population-based study". Ann. Surg. 220 (4): 564–8, discussion 568–9. PMC 1234434. PMID 7944666.