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Hirschsprung-associated enterocolitis (HAEC) is a complication of Hirschsprung disease. This is a rare condition that occurs in babies. Nerve cells normally help control muscles that allow stool to move through the colon. The absence of these nerve cells results in bowel obstruction, preventing normal bowel movements.
HAEC can happen suddenly and requires immediate care by a doctor. In most cases, hospital care is needed.
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HAEC is an inflammation or infection of the bowel. This may be caused by:
Factors that may increase your child's chances of HAEC:
Symptoms may include:
These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. If your child has any of these symptoms, tell the doctor right away.
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your child's bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Abdominal x-rays may be used to evaluate the intestines or other nearby structures.
A child who has had pull-through surgery to treat an intestinal blockage will be closely monitored for symptoms of HAEC. While most cases of HAEC occur within 2 years after pull-through surgery, it can occur up to 10 years following surgery.
If the doctor suspects HAEC, barium enemas will be avoided. Barium enemas increases the risk of bowel perforation.
Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:
To help reduce your child’s chances of HAEC, rectal irrigation may be done after pull-through surgery to try to prevent HAEC.
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Hirschsprung disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116544/Hirschsprung-disease. Updated July 24, 2015. Accessed January 9, 2017.
Hirschsprung’s disease. About Kids GI—International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders website. Available at: https://aboutkidsgi.org/lower-gi/hirschsprung-s-disease.html. Updated March 24, 2016. Updated January 9, 2017.
Kessmann J. Hirschsprung’s disease: diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(8):1319-1322.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD Last Updated: 12/20/2014