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A circumstance in which one portion of the intestine slides over another in telescopic fashion, creating an intestinal obstruction (ileus). Intussusception typically occurs in infants between the ages of 3 and 10 months, though can develop in children up to age six years. It is three times more common in boys than girls.
Intussusception is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate treatment.
Symptoms of Intussusception
Symptoms include waves (paroxysms) of pain that at first appear to be colicky. Within 12 hours, however, the course shifts sharply from that of colic. Diarrhea and vomiting develop, and pain becomes continuous. Stools often are watery and bloody, and may contain large quantities of mucus.
Though intussusception is more common in children who have cystic fibrosis or Meckel’s diverticulum, or who experience blunt trauma to the abdomen, there are no certain predisposing factors.
Barium enema provides the diagnosis, and, about 75 percent of the time, the treatment as well because the barium causes the bowel to expand back out. When the intussusception persists, the situation requires immediate surgery.
Without treatment intussusception rapidly progresses to peritonitis and septicemia, and usually is fatal. With appropriate treatment, nearly all infants experience full and uneventful recovery with no long-term consequences. Intussusception typically does not recur.
See also DIVERTICULAR DISEASE.
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