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Definition

Intussusception is when one part of the intestine slides up into another part of the intestine. This creates a blockage and makes it hard for the intestines to work as they should.

Intussusception
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Causes

The cause is not always known in most children. Rarely, it is triggered by a health problem, such as:

Risk Factors

Intussusception is more common in children less than 12 months old. It is also more common in males. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Having a health problem that can trigger intussusception
  • Abdominal trauma or surgery
  • Bacterial and parasitic infections
  • Antibiotic use
  • Rotavirus vaccine (uncommon)

Symptoms

Problems are:

  • Severe belly pain that may cause a child to pull his or her knees up to chest
  • Vomiting, often yellow or green in color
  • Stools mixed with mucus and blood
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Lack of alertness

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Images may be taken of your child's belly to confirm the diagnosis. This may be done with ultrasound.

Treatment

Intussusception is an emergency that must be treated right away to avoid severe problems. The goal of treatment is to unblock the intestine so that it can work the way it should. This may be done with:

  • A small, soft tube in the rectum that delivers air or a solution with contrast material to unblock the intestine
  • Surgery to release the trapped part of the intestine and remove any tissue damage

Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing intussusception.

RESOURCES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  http://www.cdc.gov 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians  http://www.familydoctor.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children  http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca 

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 

References

Abdominal pain in infants. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/abdominal/Pages/Abdominal-Pains-in-Infants.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed September 21, 2017.

Edwards EA, Pigg N, et al. Intussusception: past, present and future. Pediatr Radiol. 2017 Aug;47(9):1101-1108.

Intussusception. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/intussusception  . Updated April 23, 2019. Accessed January 10, 2020.

Intussusception. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/intussusception.html. Updated January 4, 2018. Accessed January 10, 2020.

Questions and answers about intussusception. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/rotavirus/about-intussusception.html. Updated January 27, 2017. Accessed January 10, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2019
  • Update Date: 01/10/2020