Hirschsprung (HERSH-sproong) disease is a birth defect that affects the large intestine (colon) of newborns, babies, and toddlers.
Hirschsprung disease prevents bowel movements (stool or poop) from passing through the intestines due to missing nerve cells in the lower part of the colon. A blockage forms, causing constipation. If untreated, this can sometimes lead to life-threatening complications.
Most of the time, the problems with pooping start at birth, although in milder cases symptoms may appear months or years later. Symptoms of Hirschsprung disease can include constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, gas, a swollen belly, and difficulty gaining weight.
Hirschsprung disease is treated with surgery. The surgeon removes the section of the colon without nerves and reattaches the remaining portion of the colon to the rectum (the area where poop is temporarily stored just before a bowel movement). After surgery, most kids recover well and can pass stool normally with no lasting problems.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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