What is malrotation of the intestines?

The intestines are the tubes where food is digested as it passes from the stomach to the anus. Usually, before your child is born, the intestines rotate and settle on their own into a specific arrangement to ensure there are no blockages. In rare cases, intestines do not rotate and settle properly. They get twisted, causing obstruction of food particles and cutting off blood supply to other parts of the intestine. Another name for the twisting of the intestines is volvulus. Malrotation with volvulus can cause damage to the intestines and can be life-threatening.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • persistent vomiting. At first, the vomit may be clear-colored but eventually will become bright golden yellow, dark green, or a dark brown color. Blood may appear in the vomit in later stages.
  • swollen belly.
  • blood in the stool.
  • pain when the belly is pressed.
  • sick appearance with difficulty breathing.

Most children diagnosed with malrotation of the intestines are less than a year old and many are less than one month old. If your child experiences any of these symptoms, see a physician immediately.

How is it treated?

Surgery is the treatment for volvulus. During surgery, the surgeon will work to:

  • untwist the intestines.
  • evaluate the gastrointestinal tract to determine whether there are underlying abnormalities that caused the malrotation.
  • repair abnormalities, if possible.
  • if the intestines have been damaged by the malrotation, the surgeon may remove the damaged parts, or, the damaged intestines may be removed during a future surgery, depending on your child's needs.

About surgery for malrotation of the intestines at Children's

Surgery for malrotation of the intestines is commonly performed at Children's. The surgery typically is performed by pediatric general surgeons. Surgery teams at Children's provide next-generation care to neonatal infants, newborns, children, and adolescents from throughout the Upper Midwest and consistently perform some of the most cutting-edge surgical procedures available, including newborn surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and robotic surgery, when appropriate. Surgery for malrotation of the intestines is performed at Children's - Minneapolis and Children's – St. Paul.

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