Hirschsprung Disease In Children - Everything You Need To Know

hirschsprung disease

Image: Shuhtterstock

As a parent, you are always trying to ensure your child is healthy and fine. But try as you might, there are certain medical conditions that do end up inflicting children, during infancy, through the toddler years and even after that.

One major health concern that most parents find their children suffering from is constipation. Constipation in adults is manageable with dietary changes and medication, but if your child is unable to pass stool, it can lead to some serious issues.

If your child is unable to empty the bowels, she might be afflicted with a syndrome known as Hirschsprung disease.

What Is Hirschsprung Disease?

Hirschsprung disease is characterized by the absence of nerve cell formation in the colon of the fetus.

  • Your child will be unable to pass stool as the large intestine is affected.
  • Stool cannot be passed normally and tends to back up.
  • This gives rise to bacterial infections and intestinal perforations in extreme cases.

[ Read: Epilepsy In Children ]

Some Causes:

Hirschsprung disease may also manifest itself in the following cases:

  • More frequently in boys.
  • Children afflicted with Down Syndrome.
  • Genetic inheritance is also a major cause. There is a greater chance of this disease if any parent or sibling is also afflicted with the same.

Side Effects Of Hirschsprung Disease:

Left untreated, this disease can have many side effects, like:

  • Severe constipation and stomach pain.
  • Diarrhea and vomiting due to bacterial infections.
  • Complications of the colon like enterocolitis.

It is imperative to diagnose and treat the disease promptly to avoid any serious complications. Hirschsprung may also affect the growth of your toddlers and kids as nutrient absorption is reduced.

[ Read: Diarrhea In Children ]

Warning Bells:

It is better to catch the disorder before it becomes full blown. There are several symptoms which can help in the Hirschsprung disease diagnosis.

Here are a few things you should watch out for:

  • Usually the symptoms manifest themselves in 3/4th of the cases in the first 6 weeks of a baby’s life.
  • Severely afflicted infants will exhibit the symptoms within the first 48 hours of their life.
  • Toddlers and kids whose intestines are almost normal and where only some cells are absent may not have any symptoms for months and years.

[ Read: Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis ]

Common Symptoms:

Some of the common symptoms that you may see are:

In Infants:

  • Inability to pass stools in the first 48 hours of life.
  • Swelling and tenderness of abdomen.
  • Vomiting coupled with the above symptoms.
  • Fever coupled with the above symptoms.

In Toddlers And Kids: (These manifest themselves later in life)

  • Chronic constipations.
  • Sepsis infection.
  • Watery stools and stools that are white in color.
  • Decreased appetite and delayed developmental milestone achievement coupled with the above symptoms.


The doctor will advise you on the following tests based upon your baby or child’s age:

  • Barium Enema: The barium dye is inserted into the colon and the movement of the dye is monitored through x-ray.
  • Rectal Suction Biopsy: Some intestinal cells are removed and tested.
  • Surgical Biopsy: This may be performed for older toddlers and kids.


If your child is diagnosed with the Hirschsprung disease, take a deep breath and don’t lose hope. Surgery is the best alternative and this disease is completely cured post the operation.

Here is what you can expect:

  • The main idea is to normalize the intestine. Hence, the part of the intestine which doesn’t have the nerve cells is removed. It is replaced by pulling down the normal part of the intestine towards the anus by attaching the intestine to a small hole in the abdomen. A biopsy is performed to confirm the presence of the nerve cells.
  • Usually only a small part of the intestine needs to be removed .In case the entire large intestine is removed it is called as “Ileostomy”. Here the small intestine is connected to the hole in the abdomen.
  • With early diagnosis a minimally invasive surgery resulting in miniscule scars may be performed (1).

Post-Treatment Or Post-Operative Care:

The worst part is over and now the emphasis is on the recuperation. Your medical care team will brief you about the things you need to follow in order to help your baby or child get back to health.

  • Also, it is important to remember that at any time, if you feel your baby is in discomfort, you need to immediately get in touch with your medical care giver. Never wave it off as just a post-treatment discomfort issue.
  • Here are the things you need to keep in mind, in addition to what the doctors brief you:
  • Your baby may get constipated, so ensure the diet is monitored.
  • Your kid or toddler may be given a high fiber diet. Maintain that religiously.

[ Read: Fiber Rich Foods For Kids Constipation ]

  • Adequate water consumption is a must to avoid dehydration in children of all ages.
  • Laxatives may be administered to your child for temporary relief.
  • Your child should be monitored for symptoms such as explosive stools, rectal bleeding, fever and diarrhea which may herald enterocolitis.

Most children experience constipation or difficulty in passing stool some time or the other. While that is normal, if you see your child getting too uncomfortable or in pain, make sure you consult the doctor.

As parents, it is natural for you to feel worried and guilty about your child’s health. But understand that this is something that needs medical intervention and you are not to blame. Give your children healthy and clean home cooked meals and make sure you keep them properly hydrated always.

We hope the information above will help you in understanding more about the Hirschsprung disease symptoms and cure.

Have you been through this phase with your children? Do let us know and share your experiences with other readers.

Reference : 2

Recommended Articles:

  • 5 Serious Causes Of Gas Pain In Children
  • Conduct Disorder In Children – 5 Symptoms & 10 Treatments You Should Be Aware Of
  • 6 Common Behavioral Problems In Children & Their Remedies
  • 2 Types Of Breath Holding Spells In Children