Understanding Meckel’s Scan (Child)

Outline of child showing digestive tract and Meckel's diverticulum.A Meckel’s scan is an imaging test used to detect a Meckel’s diverticulum. This is a small, abnormal pocket in the wall of a child’s large intestine.

What is a Meckel’s diverticulum?

When a baby is growing in the womb, its gastrointestinal tract is forming. A small duct forms off an area of what will become the large intestine. The baby’s body gets rid of this duct very early when it is growing in the womb, but in some cases it doesn’t. This results in a small pouch or pocket off part of the large intestine. This is called a Meckel’s diverticulum. It is not common. It often has the same tissue as that of the stomach or pancreas, which then may cause bleeding.

Why might I need a Meckel’s scan done?

Many children with a Meckel’s diverticulum never have any symptoms from it. Your child may need a Meckel’s scan if he or she has symptoms like pain in the belly or blood in his or her stool. The healthcare provider may advise a Meckel’s scan if other tests haven’t found the cause of your child’s symptoms.

How is a Meckel’s scan done?

A Meckel’s scan can help find this abnormal tissue. During the scan, a substance called technetium-99m is given through a vein. This substance has a tiny amount of radioactive material in it. Stomach tissue absorbs most of this substance. A special camera called a gamma camera can detect the radiation. It takes a series of pictures of your child’s abdomen. The camera will show if there is a Meckel’s diverticulum in your child’s large intestine.

What are the risks of a Meckel’s scan?

All procedures have some risks. The risks of a Meckel’s scan include a small amount of bleeding where the IV was inserted.

A Meckel’s scan does use radiation. But it uses only a tiny dose, about the same as a chest X-ray. In high doses, radiation is dangerous and raises the risk for cancer. The amount of radiation from a single Meckel’s scan is so small that it likely does not really increase your child’s risk for cancer. Your child’s healthcare provider will only advise a Meckel’s scan if the risks of not getting a scan are greater than any possible risks from radiation. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.