What causes intussusception?
We don't really know. An increased incidence of developing intussusception is often seen in children:
- who have cystic fibrosis and are also dehydrated
- who have abdominal or intestinal tumors or masses
- who have an intestinal virus known as gastroenteritis
- who have an upper respiratory tract infection, including infection with adenovirus
- who have just finished taking chemotherapy for cancer
How often does intussusception occur?
Intussusception occurs in one out of every 250 to 1,000 infants and children.
- Intussusception is rarely seen in newborn infants.
- Sixty percent of those who develop intussusception are between 2 months and 1 year old.
- Although 80 percent of the children who develop the condition are less than 2 years old, intussusception can also occur in older children, teenagers and adults.
- Boys develop intussusception three to four times more often than girls.
- Intussusception seems to occur more often in the spring and fall months.
Why is intussusception of concern?
Intussusception is a life-threatening illness.
- If left untreated, it can cause serious damage to the intestines, since their blood supply is cut off.
- Intestinal infection can occur, and the intestinal tissue can also die.
- Untreated intussusception can also cause internal bleeding and a severe abdominal infection called peritonitis.
What are the symptoms of intussusception?
Each child experiences symptoms differently, but the most common symptom of intussusception is sudden onset of intermittent pain in a previously well child.
- The pain may be mistaken for colic at first; it occurs at frequent intervals.
- Infants and children may strain, draw their knees up, act very irritable, and cry loudly. Your child may recover and become playful in-between bouts of pain, or may become tired and weak from crying.
- Vomiting may also occur with intussusception, and it usually starts soon after the pain begins.
- Your child may pass a normal stool, but the next stool may look bloody. A red, mucus or jelly-like stool is usually seen with intussusception.