Merck Manual

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Abdominal Pain in Newborns, Infants, and Young Children

Abdominal Pain in Newborns, Infants, and Young Children

Cause of Pain

Description

Comments

Meconium peritonitis

Inflammation and sometimes infection of the abdominal cavity and its lining (peritonitis) caused by a perforation in the intestine and leakage of meconium (the dark green fecal material that is produced in the intestines before birth)

Occurs while infants are still in the womb or shortly after birth

A blockage at the stomach outlet (duodenum)

Forceful (projectile) vomiting occurs after feedings

Usually begins between birth and 4 months of age

Thin membranes that grow across the inside of the upper one third of the esophagus from its lining (mucosa)

Solids are difficult to swallow

Volvulus

Twisting of a loop of the intestines

Causes intestinal obstruction and cuts off the blood supply to intestines

Commonly, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal swelling, and episodic and excessive crying (colic)

Imperforate anus (anal atresia)

Narrowing or blockage of the anal opening

Normally detected by doctors when infants are examined after birth and usually requires immediate surgery

The condensing and overlapping (telescoping) of one portion of the intestine into another

Causes intestinal obstruction and cuts off the blood supply to the intestine

Causes sudden pain, vomiting, bloody stools, and fever

Typically affects children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years

A blockage that completely stops or seriously impairs the passage of intestinal contents

Commonly caused by a birth defect, meconium, or volvulus in newborns and infants

Various symptoms depending on the type of obstruction but may include cramping pain in the abdomen, bloating, disinterest in eating, vomiting, severe constipation, diarrhea, and fever