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Infants and children who are diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease face unique challenges, which colorectal surgery can help correct. This congenital condition (present from birth) occurs when a child is born without nerve cells in the intestines. Normally, these cells trigger contractions in the gut that move digested food and liquid through the intestines and out of the body, a process known as peristalsis.

Children with Hirschsprung’s disease, however, are born without these cells in some parts of the large intestine, so they are unable to push waste through these areas. As a result, contents of the intestine back up, leading to a blockage. Depending on a child’s age, Hirschsprung’s disease can also cause constipation, gas, a swollen abdomen, infrequent but explosive stools, malnutrition, and poor growth. Left untreated, Hirschsprung’s disease can sometimes lead to inflammation, infection, or even rupture of the intestines.

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Less Invasive Options for Colorectal Surgery

To treat Hirschsprung’s disease surgically, physicians take out the sections of the intestines that lack ganglia. This involves surgically removing abnormal portions of the colon and rectum and then pulling the remaining healthy part of the colon down to the anus, where it is reattached. Depending on the patient, colorectal surgery can include three different phases, but your child may not require all three.

There are several variations on this technique, which have become increasingly less invasive over the years.

The least-invasive approach to colorectal surgery for Hirschsprung’s disease is called the Transanal Endorectal Pull-through Technique, or TEPT. First described in the late 1990s by internationally renowned surgeon Luis De la Torre, MD, this approach has transformed the way that surgery for Hirschsprung’s disease is performed. In TEPT, surgeons perform the procedure by a transanal approach and an abdominal operation is not needed. This minimally invasive procedure has been shown in studies to result in shorter hospital stays, shorter time to full feeding, less pain, and excellent outcomes, compared to traditional surgery for Hirschsprung’s disease.

If your child has Hirschsprung’s disease, ask his or her physician about all of the treatment options available for this condition.

About Pediatrics

From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh ranks No. 8 on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. All 10 of our specialties rank nationally. UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is a longtime national leader for women and their newborns. We aim to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond.