Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Meconium Ileus Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Meconium Ileus

Babies with meconium ileus may have these symptoms:

  • No passing of the first stool (meconium)
  • Green vomit (also called bilious because it contains bile, a liquid made in the liver to help digest fats)
  • Swollen belly (abdomen), maybe soon after birth

Babies with more complex problems - such as a hole in the intestine (perforation) - may have more serious symptoms, like these:

  • Very swollen, painful, red (inflamed) belly
  • Breathing problems because pressure from the belly keeps the lungs from filling with air

Meconium Ileus Diagnosis

In some cases, a prenatal ultrasound shows that a baby's intestine may be blocked. If your doctor suspects your baby's intestine is blocked before birth, the doctor will refer you to a hospital where a medical team can:

  • Monitor your baby's condition. For instance, you may need monthly ultrasounds. The team will watch for signs of any problems.
  • Prepare for birth. The team will put a plan in place to manage your baby's condition after delivery, if needed.

The team from our Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment Program has the expertise to monitor babies with meconium ileus that is found before birth and to plan for treatment.

In most cases, doctors suspect meconium ileus based on signs and symptoms in the first several hours or days after birth. The doctor at Seattle Children’s will ask for a detailed history of your baby’s illness and speak to the doctor who sent your baby here. The doctor at Seattle Children’s will do a thorough exam. By pressing on your baby’s belly, the doctor may be able to feel a loop of small intestine filled with meconium.

Your baby will need X-rays taken of their belly. X-rays may show enlarged loops of small intestine. Inside the intestine the doctor may see what looks like soap bubbles. These appear when air mixes with meconium.

Your baby will also need to have a lower GI (PDF) (gastrointestinal) series (contrast enema). The test is done using X-rays and a contrast agent. The contrast is put into your baby’s rectum and can be seen on X-rays as it travels through your baby’s large intestine (colon). The X-ray may show that the colon is smaller than normal (microcolon) and there’s a blockage near the end of the small intestine.

If your baby has meconium ileus, your doctor will want to test for cystic fibrosis.

Contact Us

If you have questions about meconium ileus treatment, call our General and Thoracic Surgery Department at 206-987-2794, extension 4.