Intussusception is a very serious type of bowel obstruction. It occurs in up to 4 in 1000 live births. The bowel (also called intestine) is shaped like a long tube. Intussusception occurs when a part of the bowel “telescopes” in on itself and is trapped by an adjacent portion of the small or large intestine. This causes swelling and obstruction, cutting off the blood supply to the intestine.
In many cases, there is no known cause for intussusception. However, intussusception may sometimes occur as a complication of some medical conditions, including:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors include:
The initial symptoms may include:
Additional symptoms include:
Intussusception cuts off the blood supply to the bowel. If this is not treated quickly, it can lead to bowel gangrene. Gangrene can cause tissue in the intestinal wall to die. This may lead to:
If not treated quickly, peritonitis can lead to death.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:
In many cases, giving an air enema will correct intussusception. Air enema is preferred over water-soluble contrast or barium enema. This is often the preferred treatment when intussusception occurs in infancy. However, the test may occasionally cause a perforation to occur in the bowel. No form of enema should be done if the doctors know the bowel is perforated.
Surgery may be required to release the trapped portion of the bowel and to clear the obstruction. If any bowel tissue has died due to gangrene, that part of the bowel may need to be removed.
After any treatment, intussusception may recur.
Antibiotics may be administered and a nasogastric tube placed prior to attempted reduction.
If you are diagnosed with intussusception, follow your doctor's instructions .
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Pediatrics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
About Kids Health
American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.familydoctor.org .
American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.aap.org .
Behrman RE, Kliegman RM , Jenson HB, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics . 18th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders: ; 2007.
Beers MH, Fletcher AJ, et al. The Merck Manual of Medical Information . Whitehouse Station, NJ: Simon and Schuster, Inc; 2000.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov .
D’Augustino J. Common abdominal emergencies in children. Emerg Med Clin North Am . 2002;20(1):139-153.
King L. Pediatrics, intussusception. Emedicine website. Available at: http://www.emedicine.com/emerg/topic385.htm .
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Wood BP. Intussusception, child. Emedicine website. Available at: http://www.emedicine.com/radio/topic366.htm .
Last reviewed November 2008 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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