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Intussusception


What is intussusception?

Intussusception happens when one part of the intestine folds into itself, like a collapsing telescope. This telescoping can block and put pressure on the intestine. Intussusception is most common between 3 months and 2 years of age, but can occur at any age.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain– The main symptom of intussusception is very sudden and severe belly pain. The pain comes and goes in waves. The waves last seconds to minutes and may occur every 5 to 15 minutes. During these painful attacks your child may whimper, cry or scream. Between attacks your child may seem normal or be quiet and less active than usual.
  • Vomiting – clear or yellow color
  • Bloody stools –streaks of blood or look like red current jelly
  • Pale skin – especially in the face
  • Listlessness
  • Sausage shaped fullness seen or felt on the belly wall

What is the cause?

The exact cause of intussusception is not known. It sometimes happens when a child has a cold or other viral illness associated with swollen glands in the abdomen. There are glands located in the wall of the intestine and swelling of these glands can cause the bowel to telescope.

There is a small risk that intussusception may be caused by rotavirus vaccine. However, the CDC recommends that infants get the vaccine to prevent severe rotavirus disease.

How is it diagnosed?

The doctor will ask questions about your child's medical history and recent symptoms. An X-ray may be taken to help make the diagnosis.

What is the treatment?

Your child may be treated in the emergency department or admitted to the hospital for treatment.

How can I help take care of my child?

Once your child has been treated and discharged, there should be no further pain and nothing special to do at home. Your child should eat, drink, act and play normally. Rarely, intussusception can happen again. If it does, it is usually within 48 hours, so it is important to watch your child carefully to see if symptoms come back.

When should I call the healthcare provider?

Call IMMEDIATELY If:

  • Your child begins to have abdominal pain that comes and goes.
  • Your child vomits.
  • Your child becomes very sluggish.
  • Your child has bloody stools.
  • Your child looks or acts very sick.

Call during office hours if:

  • You have other questions or concerns.

Written by the Section of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, The Children's Hospital, Denver.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-11-29
Last reviewed: 2010-11-29

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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