DESCRIPTIONIntussusception is an intestinal obstruction in which the bowel telescopes (folds back on itself). The intestine (usually the large intestine) is involved. Intussusception can affect children of all ages but is most common in infants and children between 2 months and 6 years. It is more common in boys for unknown reasons.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition, medications, and treatment.
Special X-ray studies (barium enema) rarely may reduce the intussusception and avoid further treatment.
Surgery to remove the strangulated bowel and rejoin healthy sections.
Hospitalization until the obstruction is corrected.
Home care during convalescence.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSCramping abdominal pain. Infants cry out, bring the legs up to the abdomen, and become pale and sweaty during an attack.
Rectal bleeding. This may be dark red material that resembles jelly.
Mass in the abdomen that can be felt.
Unknown factors cause a loop of bowel to turn in on itself. This blocks the bowel's blood supply, causing gangrene and peritonitis. The disorder may be caused by a virus infection, but that is unproven.
RISK FACTORSFamily history of intussusception.
The seasons (for unknown reasons). It is most common in late spring, early summer, and midwinter.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCENo specific preventive measures.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory blood tests.
X-rays of the abdomen and intestinal tract (barium enema, See Glossary). The radiologist may manipulate the barium and clear the obstruction.
Dehydration and shock.
Intestinal perforation and peritonitis.
Spontaneous recovery in 24 hours (sometimes). If not, this is curable with early diagnosis and surgery or barium treatment. Without treatment, complications are life-threatening. The disorder sometimes recurs.
HOME CAREObserve your child carefully if symptoms develop. Prevent complications by seeking medical treatment during early stages.
MEDICATIONMedicine usually is not necessary for this disorder unless infection develops. Then your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Don't use home remedies or non-prescription drugs, such as laxatives, for this condition. They may be dangerous.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your child should rest in bed until the obstruction is cleared. The child may then resume activities gradually.
DIET & FLUIDS
Don't feed a child with signs of intestinal obstruction. Intravenous fluids are necessary until the obstruction is removed. No special diet is required then.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When intussusception has been relieved, appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has signs or symptoms of intestinal obstruction. This condition changes quickly from a curable one to a life-threatening one.