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Symptoms of Hirschsprung Disease

If your baby has Hirschsprung disease, they may have one or more of these symptoms just after birth:

  • No stool passed within the first day or two after birth
  • Swollen belly (abdomen) from gas
  • Vomiting, which may be yellow or greenish

Babies with an infection in the large intestine called enterocolitis may become very ill. They may be very sleepy or not very active, and may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Swollen belly
  • Watery or bloody diarrhea

If your baby has been diagnosed with Hirschsprung disease and has any of these symptoms, get medical help right away.

Older babies and children with Hirschsprung disease may have problems with constipation that do not improve much after using routine treatments. In addition, older children may have:

  • More diarrhea than usual
  • A lack of red blood cells, called anemia, because they lose blood in their stool
  • Slower growth and development than usual

Hirschsprung Disease Diagnosis

If your baby has symptoms of Hirschsprung disease, the doctor will take X-rays to see what the intestines look like. Your baby may need:

  • A regular X-ray
  • X-rays called a lower GI (PDF) (gastrointestinal) series
  • A contrast enema. This test uses a dye that is placed into the baby's anus through a small tube. The dye allows the doctor to see the intestine better on an X-ray.

To tell for sure if your child has Hirschsprung disease, doctors may need to take a small sample of tissue from the rectum. Then, they look at it under a microscope to see if it has ganglion cells. This is called a suction rectal biopsy.

In older children, sometimes doctors also test pressure changes and muscle movements in the rectum. This test is called rectal manometry. The doctor inflates a small balloon inside the rectum that senses these changes. Most children do not need this test.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

Should your child see a doctor?

Find out by selecting your child’s symptom or health condition in the list below:

Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)