The digestive system processes and uses the nutrients in food and drink. The intestines (bowel) are a part of the digestive system that runs from the mouth to the anus. If you spread out the intestines end-to-end, they would stretch several feet long. In the body, the intestines are folded tightly and take up only part of the abdomen.

Malrotation of the bowel occurs when a baby is born with the intestines in the wrong location within the abdomen. In a typical baby, the intestines go through a rotation while developing in the uterus. In a baby with malrotation of the bowel, the intestines did not properly undergo rotation. If the intestines are not properly rotated, this puts the baby at risk for developing a blockage in the intestine. This is because the malrotation does not allow food and drink to pass through normally, and the blood supply to the bowel may become damaged.

Symptoms of Malrotation of the Bowel

Some babies and children with malrotation of the bowel won’t experience symptoms, and the condition may never be diagnosed. However, most children will have symptoms and receive a diagnosis before age 1. Symptoms of this condition may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Drawing up the legs
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Slow growth, or failure to thrive
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Vomiting bile (yellow-green digestive fluid)

When to see a doctor

Take your child to see a pediatrician (doctor who specializes in treating children) right away or go to the nearest emergency room if they experience any of the above symptoms.

Causes of Malrotation of the Bowel

Twisted intestines are a congenital (present at birth) condition. During the baby’s development inside their mother’s womb, the intestines do not twist into the proper location. Experts do not know why this happens.

Who’s at risk

Malrotation of the bowel occurs in about 1 in every 500 babies born in the United States. There are no known risk factors for being born with twisted intestines. However, babies with this condition also often have other problems present at birth that may affect the:

  • Abdominal wall
  • Digestive system
  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Spleen (organ filtering the blood)

Request an Appointment

Contact an Orlando Health doctor

If you suspect that your child may have malrotation of the bowel, make an appointment with an Orlando Health pediatrician today so your child can start on the road to improved health.