Mesenteric Adenitis

Mesenteric adenitis means swollen (inflamed) lymph glands in the tummy (abdomen), which causes tummy pain. It is sometimes called mesenteric lymphadenitis. The mesentery is the part of the tummy where the glands are located. Adenitis means inflamed lymph glands.

What is the cause?

Mesenteric adenitis seems to be caused by swollen lymph glands (also called lymph nodes) in the tummy (abdomen). The affected lymph glands are next to the gut (intestine). The swelling of the lymph glands is caused by an infection, usually a viral infection.

Read more about the causes of mesenteric adenitis.

How common is it?

Mesenteric adenitis is a fairly common cause of tummy (abdominal) pain in children aged under 16 years. It is much less common in adults.

What are the symptoms?

Mesenteric adenitis is usually a mild condition which causes temporary pain in the tummy, usually in children. The symptoms of mesenteric adenitis often start following a sore throat or symptoms of a cold. The main symptoms of mesenteric adenitis are:

  • A sore throat or symptoms of a cold before the tummy pain started.
  • Pain in the tummy. The pain is usually in the middle of your tummy (near your belly button). The pain may be in the lower right-hand side of the tummy (called the right iliac fossa).
  • High temperature (fever) and feeling generally unwell.
  • Feeling sick (nausea) and/or diarrhoea.

How is it diagnosed?

Mesenteric adenitis is usually diagnosed from your symptoms and an examination of your tummy (abdomen). The only problem is when other more serious conditions can't be ruled out. Tests such as blood tests, a urine test for infection, or scans (ultrasound or CT scan) may be needed to rule out other possible causes of abdominal pain. See also the leaflets called Appendicitis and Abdominal Pain

Find out more about the diagnosis of mesenteric adenitis.

What is the treatment?

Usually, no treatment is needed for mesenteric adenitis other than painkillers (if needed). If infection with a germ (a bacterial infection) is suspected, you may be given antibiotic medication, but this is uncommon.

Your doctor will advise about the symptoms to look out for which suggest that you should be seen urgently for review. For example, increasing pain or becoming more unwell mean you should seek further advice straightaway.

When might an operation be needed?

In some cases, problems such as appendicitis or ectopic pregnancy cannot be totally ruled out, even after tests. If so, you may need an operation to look inside your tummy to check for any suspected problem. Sometimes this can be done as keyhole surgery (laparoscopy), where a thin fibre-optic telescope is used to look inside the tummy.

If you have an operation or laparoscopy then the inflamed glands may actually be seen. However, the purpose of the operation is not to look for swollen glands, but to make sure other important problems, like appendicitis, are not missed.

What is the outlook?

The symptoms usually improve within a few days, and will almost always clear up completely within about two weeks. Rarely, if infection with a germ (bacterium) is the cause, the condition can become serious if left untreated.

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  • Kim JS; Acute Abdominal Pain in Children. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2013 Dec 16(4):219-224. Epub 2013 Dec 31.
  • Humes DJ, Simpson J; Acute appendicitis. BMJ. 2006 Sep 9 333(7567):530-4.
  • Groselj-Grenc M, Repse S, Vidmar D, et al; Clinical and laboratory methods in diagnosis of acute appendicitis in children. Croat Med J. 2007 Jun 48(3):353-61.
Author:
Dr Colin Tidy
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hannah Gronow
Document ID:
9044 (v4)
Last Checked:
23 July 2017
Next Review:
22 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.