Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions


What Is Malrotation?

Malrotation means your child's intestines are not in the normal position.

When babies are developing, their intestines begin as a short straight tube. During the first few months of pregnancy, the intestines start to grow longer. As they grow, they turn inside the belly (abdomen). When they reach the right position, they attach to the back of the abdomen. This holds them in place.

In babies with malrotation, the intestines don't turn and attach in the normal way.

Malrotation in Children

About 1 in 500 babies born in the United States has malrotation. It may not cause any health problems. But sometimes it leads to serious problems, such as:

  • Ladd's bands - These are bands of tissue that may attach the first part of the small intestine (duodenum) to the first part of the large intestine (colon). This can block the duodenum and keep food from passing through.
  • Volvulus - In this condition, the intestines twist sharply. The twist can squeeze the blood vessel that carries all of the blood to the intestines. If blood flow is cut off, the intestines can be damaged and the tissue can die.

Both of these problems can be life-threatening.

Most children who have had problems from malrotation do well and grow normally if the problems are found and treated early and there's no lasting damage to their intestine.

Some children with other conditions may be more likely to have malrotation. These include some heart conditions, heterotaxia (where other organs are not in the normal place), and other problems, such as being born with more than one spleen or none at all.

Malrotation at Seattle Children's

We have treated many babies as well as older children with malrotation at Seattle Children's. Our surgeons are experienced at doing the surgeries these children need to move and attach their intestines and to correct volvulus.

When you come to Seattle Children's, you have a team of people to care for your child. Along with your child's surgeon, you are connected with nurses, dietitians, child life specialists and others. We work together to meet all of your child's health needs and help your family through this experience.

Since 1907, Seattle Children's has been treating children only. Our team members are trained in their fields and also in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, the doctors who give your child anesthesia are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra years of training in how to take care of kids. Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age. Our expertise in pediatrics truly makes a difference for our patients and families.