by Rick Alan
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, there is no known cause for intussusception. However, intussusception may sometimes occur as a complication of some medical conditions, including:
Intussusception is more common in children 3 months to 6 years old, but the majority are younger than 24 months. It is also more common in males.
Factors that increase the risk of intussusception include:
The initial symptoms may include:
Additional symptoms include:
Intussusception cuts off the blood supply to the bowel. If this is not treated quickly, it can lead to bowel gangrene. Gangrene can cause tissue in the intestinal wall to die. This may lead to:
If not treated quickly, peritonitis can lead to death.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
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.
There are no guidelines for preventing intussusception because the cause is unknown. Talk to your doctor about avoiding vaccines that may cause a recurrence.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Abdominal pain in infants. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed September 21, 2017.
Intussusception. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116762/Intussusception . Updated April 4, 2016. Accessed September 21, 2017.
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: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/rotavirus/about-intussusception.html. 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
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.