Hirschsprung’s disease

Hirschsprung’s disease is a congenital (from birth) disorder of the colon, causing problems with your child’s digestion and bowel movements. Nerve cells in the colon called ganglion cells, which help to move food forward and aid digestion, are not present in children with Hirschsprung’s disease. The result is acute obstruction of the intestine (in the newborn) or enlargement of the bowel (in older infants).

What causes Hirschsprung’s disease?

Hirschsprung’s disease happens when some of the ganglion cells normally present in the walls of the intestines do not form properly during fetal development. No one knows what causes it for certain, but some evidence suggests a genetic cause. It is more common in infants diagnosed with Down syndrome.

How is Hirschsprung’s disease treated?

When Hirschsprung’s disease causes bowel obstruction, a surgery is usually necessary. In the surgery, the abnormal part of the colon is removed. Sometimes a colostomy is performed so stool can continue to pass from the body while allowing the intestines to rest and heal. In a colostomy, the remaining, healthy part of the colon is connected to an opening in the abdomen called a stoma. Stool passes through the opening and into a collection bag.

If a colostomy is performed, a second surgery typically is performed at a later date to surgically reconnect the healthy intestine to the anal opening so your child can pass stool normally.

About surgery for Hirschsprung’s disease at Children’s

The surgery for Hirschsprung’s disease is commonly performed at Children’s and often can be performed within days of birth. Pediatric general surgery teams at Children’s provide next-generation care for Hirschsprung’s disease to children 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 Hirschsprung’s disease is performed at Children’s – Minneapolis and Children’s – St. Paul.

Contact us

  • If you are a family member looking for a Children’s specialist in gastrointestinal surgery, please visit Find a Doctor.
  • If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children’s Physician Access at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).