Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Malrotation Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Malrotation

Most children with malrotation have symptoms before they are 1 year old. Some children don't have symptoms until they are older, and some never have symptoms. Some people live with malrotation their whole life and never know they have it.

Symptoms happen if the intestine gets blocked (such as by Ladd's bands or volvulus) or if blood flow to the intestines is cut off.

The most common symptom is green or yellow vomit (also called bilious because it contains bile, a liquid made in the liver to help digest fats).

Babies or children with malrotation or volvulus may also have these symptoms:

  • Fussiness or crying, and nothing seems to help
  • Tiredness, sluggishness or no energy (lethargy)
  • Problems with stools (feces), such as no stools, irregular stools, diarrhea or bloody stools
  • Swollen belly that's tender when touched
  • Fast heart rate and breathing
  • Fever
  • Looking sick

Malrotation Diagnosis

Children with malrotation who have no symptoms may never have their condition diagnosed. It may be found by accident when they have an X-ray or surgery for some other reason, maybe not until they are adults.

If your child has symptoms, your child's doctor will ask for a detailed history of your child's illness. The doctor will do a thorough exam.

To see your child's intestines, the doctor may take X-ray s, including an upper GI (PDF) (gastrointestinal) series and a lower GI (PDF) series (barium enema). These can show where the intestines are and if they are blocked.

First your child will have a liquid that shows up on X-ray film. This may be put through a tube that passes through your baby's nose to their stomach (nasogastric tube, or NG tube) or through a tube placed in your baby's rectum (enema). Older children may be able to drink the liquid. An upper GI is the most accurate way to make the diagnosis.