Intussusception Symptoms & Causes

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In-Depth

What causes intussusception?

We don't really know. An increased incidence of developing intussusception is often seen in children:

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.
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