Learn About Intussusception in Children

What is the definition of Intussusception in Children?

Intussusception is the sliding of one part of the intestine into another.

This article focuses on intussusception in children.

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What are the alternative names for Intussusception in Children?

Abdominal pain in children - intussusception

What are the causes of Intussusception in Children?

Intussusception is caused by part of the intestine being pulled inward into itself.

The pressure created by the walls of the intestine pressing together causes:

  • Decreased blood flow
  • Irritation
  • Swelling

Intussusception can block the passage of food through the intestine. If the blood supply is cut off, the segment of intestine pulled inside can die. Heavy bleeding may also occur. If a hole develops, infection, shock, and dehydration can take place very rapidly.

The cause of intussusception is not known. Conditions that may lead to the problem include:

  • Viral infection
  • Enlarged lymph node in the intestine
  • Polyp or tumor in the bowel

Intussusception can affect both children and adults. It is more common in boys. It usually affects children ages 5 months to 3 years.

What are the symptoms of Intussusception in Children?

The first sign of intussusception is very often sudden, loud crying caused by abdominal pain. The pain is colicky and not continuous (intermittent), but it comes back often. The pain will get stronger and last longer each time it returns.

An infant with severe abdominal pain may draw the knees to the chest while crying.

Other symptoms include:

  • Bloody, mucus-like bowel movement, sometimes called a "currant jelly" stool
  • Fever
  • Shock (pale color, lethargy, sweating)
  • Stool mixed with blood and mucus
  • Vomiting
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What are the current treatments for Intussusception in Children?

The child will first be stabilized. A tube will be passed into the stomach through the nose (nasogastric tube). An intravenous (IV) line will be placed in the arm, and fluids will be given to prevent dehydration.

In some cases, the bowel blockage can be treated with an air or contrast enema. This is done by a radiologist skilled with the procedure. There is a risk of bowel tearing (perforation) with this procedure.

The child will need surgery if these treatments do not work. The bowel tissue can very often be saved. Dead tissue will be removed.

Antibiotics may be needed to treat any infection.

Intravenous feeding and fluids will be continued until the child has a normal bowel movement.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Intussusception in Children?

The outcome is good with early treatment. There is a risk this problem will come back.

When a hole or tear in the bowel occurs, it must be treated right away. If not treated, intussusception is almost always fatal for infants and young children.

When should I contact a medical professional for Intussusception in Children?

Intussusception is a medical emergency. Call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.

Intussusception - X-ray
Digestive system organs
What are the latest Intussusception in Children Clinical Trials?

Summary: Hartmann's procedure was described for the first time in 1921 as an alternative to abdominoperineal resection for the treatment of upper rectal tumours. Although Hartmann's procedure fell out of favour for rectal cancer after the introduction of restorative procedures, it remained the most common procedure in emergency setting for many years. Nowadays Hartmann's procedure is a useful procedure in ...

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Role of Computed Tomography in Evaluation of Different Causes of Intestinal Obstruction Correlated With Operative Findings

Summary: Intestinal obstruction is a common clinical problem that occurs secondary to mechanical or functional obstruction of the intestine, preventing normal transit of its contents. It is a frequent cause of hospitalization and represents 15-20% of surgical admissions for acute abdominal pain . The underlying aetiology of large bowel obstructions (LBOs) is age dependent, but in adulthood, the most common...

What are the Latest Advances for Intussusception in Children?
Common Conditions II: Acute Appendicitis, Intussusception, and Gastrointestinal Bleeding.
Our treatment approaches in recurrent chronic intussusceptions.
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Midazolam premedication in ileocolic intussusception: a retrospective multicenter study.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: February 24, 2022
Published By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Hu YY, Jensen T, Finck C. Surgical conditions of the small intestine in infants and children. In: Yeo CJ, ed. Shackelford's Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 83.

Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM. Ileus, adhesions, intussusception, and closed-loop obstructions. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 359.

Maloney PJ. Gastrointestinal disorders. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 171.