Intussusception is a serious problem in the intestine. When intussusception occurs, one part of the intestine slides into another section. It folds into itself like a collapsible tube with one part slipping inside another part. This creates a blockage and causes the intestines to not work properly.
Symptoms of intussusception include:
Intussusception is a medical emergency. If it is left untreated, it may cause severe complications such as infection or even death.
There is no known cause for most cases of intussusception. Rarely, intussusception is caused by conditions such as appendicitis, tumors or a polyp (a growth inside the intestine).
Intussusception is the most common cause of intestinal blockage in children between 3 months and 3 years of age. Most cases of intussusception occur in babies younger than 1 year of age. For unknown reasons, boys are affected more often than girls. Intussusception also occurs in older children and adults, but there are far fewer cases in these groups.
Your doctor will note your child's symptoms and perform a physical exam. Your doctor may use an ultrasound (which uses sounds waves to create pictures) to see if intussusception is causing your child’s symptoms.
In many cases, intussusception is corrected with an air enema. Your doctor will put air into your child's rectum through a small tube. The air pushes the folded intestine back into place, clearing the blockage. Your doctor may also want to get an X-ray of your child's abdomen to check whether or not the procedure was effective. Antibiotics are usually not needed. Sometimes surgery is necessary to correct intussusception if the intestine doesn't stop collapsing into itself or if the cause of intussusception is a tumor or polyp.
Intussusception is a medical emergency. If your child has symptoms of intussusception, seek medical help right away. When left untreated, intussusception may cause severe complications.
With prompt treatment, most children recover completely from intussusception. Occasionally, complications such as infection can occur if the intussusception is not treated quickly. If this happens, part of the bowel must be surgically removed. It is important to see your doctor quickly if your child has symptoms of intussusception.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff