Hirschsprung’s Disease 

February 4, 2022
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Pronounced “HIRSH-sproongz,” Hirschsprung’s Disease affects the colon and the ability to have bowel movements. Caused by missing nerve cells in the intestinal muscles, this condition can cause blockages and other symptoms. Hirschsprung’s Disease is present at birth for those affected and often causes an inability to have a bowel movement in the days after delivery.

This disorder is often treatable with surgery, but it can still come with specialized care needs — both before and after the operation. By learning more about Hirschsprung’s Disease, you can become more engaged with the care process if your child has been diagnosed with or may have this condition. We’re happy to share the following information to help.

Hirschsprung’s Disease Causes

The causes of Hirschsprung’s Disease are still being fully understood by researchers, but there may be a genetic component. This is because it has been identified as occurring in families in some cases. Whatever the underlying cause, the condition develops when nerve fibers in the large intestine that stimulate bowel movement do not fully form. This in turn will cause stool to become backed up in the colon.

Hirschsprung’s Disease Risk Factors

The most common risk factors include:

  • Being male
  • Being present in other family members, particularly siblings
  • Being diagnosed with inherited conditions such as congenital heart disease or Down’s Syndrome

Hirschsprung’s Disease Symptoms

Symptoms of Hirschsprung’s Disease are usually seen at birth, but in more rare circumstances they may develop in older children or even adults. Immediate signs of this disorder at birth are:

  • Swollen belly
  • Failure to have a first bowel movement, or meconium, in the first two days
  • Constipation or gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Fussiness due to gas buildup
  • Vomiting, which can be brown or green in color
  • Failure to thrive
  • Fatigue

If the condition is not diagnosed at birth, older children with Hirschsprung’s Disease may deal with a swollen belly, chronic fatigue, gas, constipation, and an overall failure to thrive. In very rare cases, this condition will not be identified until adulthood.

Hirschsprung’s Disease Treatment Options

Doctors will usually confirm a diagnosis of Hirschsprung’s Disease after asking questions about bowel movements and symptoms, and performing diagnostic tests. The most common diagnostic methods are biopsy, abdominal X-ray, and a test that measures control of the muscles around the rectum.

Upon diagnosis, treatment will most often consist of surgery to either bypass or remove the part of the colon without the nerve cells. Generally, the specific procedure will be recommended based on the extent of intestinal damage and the severity of the condition.

The two types of surgery to accomplish this are an ostomy procedure and a pull-through procedure. Ostomy is recommended in more serious cases and involves a two-phase procedure where the surgeon first removes the damaged part of the colon and attaches it through a hole in the abdomen. Once the colon has healed over a period of time, the surgeon will later reattach the colon to the anus in a separate procedure.

In less serious cases, a minimally invasive surgery will remove the damaged inner surface of the intestine and pull the healthy part through to attach to the anus. This is known as pull-through surgery.

Successful surgery should address the bowel obstruction, allowing the child to pass stool regularly through the rectum. Like other types of surgery, procedures to treat Hirschsprung’s Disease can involve a risk of complications.

Common issues that usually improve with time can include incontinence, delays with toilet training, constipation, and diarrhea. There also may be some risk of developing a bowel infection after the surgery. Signs to watch out for include:

  • Fever
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Diarrhea

Caring for a Newborn or Child with Hirschsprung’s Disease

An important part of child care for any stage of Hirschsprung’s Disease treatment is creating a healthy environment. For older children, getting plenty of fluids, eating a healthy, high fiber diet, and ensuring regular exercise is key to bowel regularity after surgical treatment. In some cases, pediatricians may recommend a laxative, but these should generally only be used as directed.

For many family situations, pediatric home health support can play an important role in caring for a child in treatment or recovering from Hirschsprung’s Disease. From medication administration to feeding assistance, a qualified pediatric home health aide can help provide the best possible care for your little one.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.