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Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Intestinal Malrotation


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020
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What is intestinal malrotation?

Intestinal malrotation is a birth defect in which the intestines don't develop normally before birth.

  • Before birth, your baby's intestines develop in one position and then turn (rotate) into their normal location

  • Sometimes a baby's intestines don't rotate into the normal location, called "mal" or "bad" rotation

  • Malrotation causes intestinal blockage and is life-threatening

  • Babies need surgery to fix the problem

Babies with intestinal malrotation often have other birth defects.

What are the symptoms of intestinal malrotation?

Intestinal malrotation may cause your baby’s intestines to be blocked. Symptoms of blockage may start during the first month of life or not for several years. Symptoms also may come and go and usually include:

  • Throwing up

  • Swollen, painful belly

How can doctors tell if my child has intestinal malrotation?

Doctors suspect your baby has intestinal malrotation if the baby throws up greenish bile. To know for sure, they’ll do barium x-rays (use barium placed in your baby’s rectum to help see the position of the baby’s digestive tract).

How do doctors treat intestinal malrotation?

Intestinal malrotation is a potential emergency, so doctors will treat the baby right away with: 

  • Fluids given by IV (through a vein)

  • Surgery to repair the intestines

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