Intussusception is a serious type of bowel obstruction. The intestine is shaped like a long tube. Intussusception occurs when one part of the intestine slides up into another part of the intestine (like a telescope). This part of the intestine becomes trapped and starts to swell. The swelling can block the flow of food. If severe, swelling can also cut off the blood supply to the area.
In many cases, giving an air enema will correct intussusception. Air enema is preferred over water-soluble contrast or barium enema. This is often the preferred treatment when intussusception occurs in infancy. However, the test may cause a perforation to occur in the bowel. An enema should not be done if the bowel is perforated.
Surgery may be required to release the trapped portion of the bowel and to clear the obstruction. If any bowel tissue has died due to gangrene, that part of the bowel may need to be removed.
Intussusception. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated March 2014. Accessed September 21, 2017.
Questions and answers about intussusception.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
Updated January 27, 2017. Accessed September 21, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 9/30/2013