What is Intussusception? | Signs and Symptoms | Diagnosis and Treatment | Discharge Instructions

What is Intussusception? 

Intussusception is a blockage in the bowel that occurs when one portion of the intestine slides into the next. The bowel slides like a telescope and causes an obstruction or blockage. The blockage causes swelling and poor blood flow to the area. If this is prolonged it may lead to permanent damage to the intestine. Intussusception occurs most commonly in children between 5 and 10 months of age.

Signs and Symptoms

Children with intussusception have intense abdominal pain. This pain begins suddenly and causes intense crying. Frequently children are seen drawing up their knees to their chest. Abdominal swelling, vomiting, and passing of stools with blood and mucus are also seen in children with intussusception.

Diagnosis and treatment

An abdominal x-ray is intitially done to evaluate an obstruction. A barium or air enema is performed to both diagnose and treat a suspected intussusception. The barium/air is injected through a catheter placed in the rectum. The barium will highlight under xray any blockage. This procedure frequently also will unfold the telescoping intestine. There is a 10% chance that the telescoping will recur in the next 72 hours after the enema is given. Your child will be kept in the hospital to observe for possible recurrence of the intussusception after the enema.

Surgery will be required if the enema is not successful in reducing the intussusception. The incision is placed in the right lower side of the abdomen. The chance of recurrence after the surgical procedure is approximately 2%. After the surgery, your child will be kept in the hospital for pain management and observation as their diet is slowly advanced to regular full diet.

Discharge Instructions

  • Administer pain medication every 4-6 hours as instructed

  • You may sponge bathe/shower your child

Please call the Pediatric Surgery office at 410-328-5730 if you notice any of the following:

  • Bloody stools
  • Increasing abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Temperature 101 or greater
  • Redness or drainage form the surgical wound if surgery was performed.

*A follow up visit will be scheduled with your surgeon for 1-2 weeks after discharge home.