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.

What are the alternative names for Intussusception in Children?

Abdominal pain in children - intussusception

What are the causes for 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 for 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

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.

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.

Colonoscopy
Intussusception - X-ray
Digestive system organs

REFERENCES

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.

  • Condition: Ileocolic Intussusception
  • Journal: Radiologia
  • Treatment Used: Ultrasound-Guided Hydrostatic Reduction with Sedation and Analgesia
  • Number of Patients: 59
  • Published —
This study evaluated the safety and effectiveness of ultrasound-guided reduction of intussusception (intestine sliding in on itself) using water in patients under sedation and analgesia.
  • Condition: Adult Intussusception
  • Journal: The Turkish journal of gastroenterology : the official journal of Turkish Society of Gastroenterology
  • Treatment Used: Laparoscopic Surgery
  • Number of Patients: 6
  • Published —
This case series describes adult patients who underwent laparoscopic surgery for the treatment of intestinal obstruction due to intussusception (intestine folding into itself).