What is Hirschsprung's disease?
Hirschsprung's disease is a birth defect that affects the nerve cells in the large
intestine. These nerve cells control the muscles that normally push food and
waste through the large intestine.
But in babies who have
Hirschsprung's disease, the muscles in the wall of the large intestine don't
relax, which prevents stool from passing. This can lead to trapped stool,
infection, pain and swelling, and bowel problems.
Most of the time,
the disease is found soon after birth in about 1 out of every 5,000 newborns.
It is most common in male babies.1
rare cases, the disease can be life-threatening.
What causes Hirschsprung's disease?
know what causes the disease, but it tends to run in families. It may also be
linked to other medical problems, such as
Down syndrome and
congenital heart disease.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include a swollen
belly and problems passing stool. Newborns with the disease may not pass their
first stool until at least 48 hours after birth.
depend on a child’s age, but can include vomiting, having a poor appetite,
refusing to eat, and not growing or gaining weight.
How is Hirschsprung's disease diagnosed?
children are diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease during their first year. A
doctor may think that a child has the disease based on the child's symptoms and
the results of a physical exam.
Other tests may be done to
confirm the diagnosis, such as:
- A tissue sample from the rectum
- An abdominal
- An X-ray of the large intestine
If there is a delay in diagnosing Hirschsprung’s disease,
the child could end up with serious, life-threatening complications.
How is it treated?
Children with Hirschsprung’s
disease need surgery to remove the diseased part of the large intestine.
Surgery is often done within the first days or month of life, soon after the
disease is found. Children with Hirschsprung’s disease need one or two
Long-term (chronic) problems with stomachaches and
bowel problems are common after surgery. But most of the time, these problems
are not severe. Depending on the problem, there are a number of treatment
options. These include medicine, behavior modification,
cognitive-behavioral therapy, and more surgery.
In a few cases, emergency surgery may be needed if a dangerous problem
such as serious swelling of the small and large intestines (enterocolitis)
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about Hirschsprung's disease:
- What is Hirschsprung's disease?
- What are the symptoms?
Living with Hirschsprung's disease:
- What can I do at home to help my child recover from surgery?
- What kind of care is needed for an ostomy?