What is intussusception?
Intussusception occurs when a one part of the intestine folds into another
part. This causes a blockage in the intestine. The blockage prevents food and
waste from properly moving through. Intussusception can occur any place in the
intestinal tract, but it’s most common where the small and large intestines
Intussusception, also called bowel obstruction, is a potentially
life-threatening condition. It affects blood supply to the intestine and can
lead to tissue death. If you don’t get treatment for it, it can lead to:
- an infection
- internal bleeding
- damage to the intestines
Intussusception is most common in children between 2 months and 2 years of
age. It’s four times more prevalent in boys than in girls, according to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Older
children, teenagers, and adults can also develop intussusception, but these
cases are rare.
What are the symptoms of intussusception?
The primary symptoms of
- acute abdominal pain
- blood or mucus in the stools
- an abdominal mass
The symptoms of intussusception may come
and go. It’s easy to mistake intussusception for colic or other minor digestive
issues. Watch for episodes of irritability, crying, and drawing up of the knees
in babies or young children.
Seek medical attention
if your child shows signs of abdominal pain, especially with vomiting and
What causes intussusception?
Often, doctors don’t find the cause of
intussusception. However, the following are known causes:
- a viral infection
- intestinal surgery
Causes of intussusception in older
children and adults often occur due to tumors, inflammation, and other
How is intussusception diagnosed?
The doctor will first do a physical
examination and look for a mass in the abdomen. An X-ray or ultrasound may help
to confirm intussusception. The doctor may introduce fluid or air into the
rectum via an enema. The fluid will show contrast for an X-ray, which will help
them identify blockages in the intestines.
How is intussusception treated?
An enema is the first step in treatment.
In fact, an enema for diagnosing intussusception may also help to treat it.
Pressure from the air or fluid may cause the intestine to correct itself. The
result of an enema treatment might not last, so people usually stay in the
hospital overnight for observation.
Surgery is another treatment option.
Intussusception surgery involves either a large incision or a small incision
and a camera. This is called laparoscopic surgery. The type of surgery depends
on the location and severity of the obstruction.
Surgery for intussusception may
include removal of the affected section of intestine. The surgeon then
reconnects the intestine with sutures.
What is the outlook?
Most people with intussusception recover normally if they seek treatment
early enough. If left untreated, intussusception can be life-threatening.