A Meckel’s scan is a diagnostic test that is used to screen for a small intestine abnormality called Meckel’s diverticulum. This abnormality is congenital, which means that it is present at birth. Children who are suspected of having this abnormality must undergo a Meckel’s scan for diagnosis. If the scan results are positive, the child will undergo small intestine surgery when he or she is old enough.
The Meckel’s diverticulum abnormality is a small bulge or pouch in the ileum of the small intestine. This abnormality is present in approximately two percent of the population. Of those people with the abnormality, only two percent will experience symptoms.
In most cases, children who are born with Meckel’s diverticulum will show symptoms by the age of 2 or else remain asymptomatic throughout their lives. Symptoms such as gastric ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding in young children can indicate the presence of a Meckel’s diverticulum, and a child might undergo a Meckel’s scan as part of the diagnostic process. The scan uses nuclear diagnostic technology to pinpoint areas of abnormally located gastric mucosa. This helps diagnose Meckel’s diverticulum because, in a large proportion of cases, gastric mucosal cells are located at the site of the abnormality.
To prepare for the scan, a child should not have any food or drink for four hours before the scheduled scan appointment. In addition, the child’s caregiver must ensure that the child does not undergo any tests that use barium in the 24 hours before the Meckel’s diagnostic scan. This is an important consideration because many children undergo other diagnostic tests in addition to the Meckel’s test.
In a Meckel’s scan, a tiny amount of a radioactive substance called technetium-99 is injected intravenously into the child undergoing the test. This injection can cause a small amount of discomfort and sometimes a tingling sensation. As the technetium-99 travels through the bloodstream, it will become concentrated in areas where gastric mucosal cells, or stomach lining cells, are located. The Meckel’s scan generally takes between 30 and 60 minutes to complete after the technetium-99 has been injected. During this time, the child must remain still, so many clinics recommend that a book, toy or other favorite item is brought from home to help him or her stay relaxed.
After the scan has been completed, there is a short waiting period while technicians can ensure that the scan is of sufficient quality to help in diagnosis. No recovery or rest period is needed for the child. After it has been determined that the scan is of good quality, the child and his or her parent or chaperone can leave the clinic.