Intussusception Causes Painful Obstructions

There are a variety of medical conditions that affect the intestines, and this can lead to various complications, and new research is pointing to some very serious conditions that can leave you very sick if you are not properly treated. Some of these medical conditions are more likely to occur in children which can lead to serious health issues if not properly diagnosed, especially before the more serious symptoms occur. One of these serious conditions of the intestines is intussusception, and it can be very debilitating, and here is what new research has figured out about this disease.


Intussusception is a very serious medical condition where a part of the intestine, such as the small intestine or colon, slides into another part of the intestine. This is referred to as “telescoping” and it can lead to a severe blockage of the intestine. A blockage in the intestine is a huge problem because it will block food and fluid from passing through it. Intussusception will also cut of the blood supply to the affected part of the intestine, which can lead to serious health complications. Most of the time intussusception occurs in children and is the most common cause of intestinal obstructions. Adults can also get intussusception but it is usually caused by an underlying medical condition.

There are a variety of symptoms associated with intussusception and they will vary depending upon whether it is affecting an adult or a child. If a child has an intussusception you will see severe abdominal pain, stool mixed with blood and mucus and there will be a lump in the abdomen. A child might also have a distended abdomen, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration and lethargy. An infant will show other signs if they are affected with intussusception such as sudden and loud crying. You should also look for the infant to pull their knees to their chest when they cry, which would signal pain in their abdomen. Pain will come and go with intussusception, and often appears in 20 minute intervals. As the time progresses, the pain will get worse and it will last longer than it did in the beginning. An adult who has intussusception will see varying symptoms and it will often appear as gastrointestinal issues. Changes in bowel movement frequency might occur and it will feel as if you need to take a bowel movement suddenly. You might also have rectal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or swelling and cramping.

Intussusception might be caused by an underlying medical condition, but most of the time a doctor will not be able to determine the cause. If a child has intussusception then it is more likely that the cause will be undetermined. Possible triggers of intussusception in children include viral infections and a non-cancerous growth or a cancerous tumor in the intestine. In adults, the causes of intussusception include non-cancerous or cancerous growths, scar tissue in the intestine, and surgical scars in the small intestine or colon. Other causes of intussusception in adults include long-term diarrhea and various gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.

There are also a variety of risk factors associated with intussusception which would make you more likely to get this condition. Children are more likely to develop intussusception than adults, and most cases will occur before the child is a year old. Boys are also more likely to be affected than girls and people who have had intussusception before are more likely to see a reoccurrence. Abnormal intestinal formations at birth also put you at a higher risk for developing the condition, such as a malrotation. A malrotation is when the intestine does not develop correctly at birth, and it is a congenital defect.

In order for the doctor to confirm a diagnosis of intussusception, there will probably be a few tests ordered. A physical examination is done to check whether there is any other type of intestinal obstruction present. The doctor will feel the abdomen to see if it is painful to the touch or distended in any way. An ultrasound will be done which will take images of the abdomen, to see whether any blockages or obstructions are present. The various images will also be used to see whether or not the intestine has been perforated at all. Air or barium enemas might be given which is like a colon X-ray. The doctor will use air first and if that does not work then a barium enema might be given as a second option. The doctor will insert either air or barium into the colon through the rectum, which will help make images show up clearer on the x-rays. Sometimes this method of diagnosis will clear the intussusception so that no further treatment would be needed. If the intestine is torn however, a barium enema can not be performed. Once the doctor confirms the diagnosis then you can move onto finding the appropriate treatment options.

Emergency medical treatment is often performed due to the increased risk of dehydration and shock. Emergency medical care will also help reduce the chance of infections, which can occur as when an area of the intestine dies from the lack of blood flow. The first step of treatment is to stabilize the condition of either the adult or child. Fluids will be given through an intravenous line to prevent dehydration and then a nasogastric tube is used to help decompress the intestines. This tube is inserted through the nose and continues into the stomach. An air or barium enema might be given, which would help correct the intussusception without requiring any further treatment. If the intestine is torn or of the enema does not work then surgery will be required for treatment. The surgeon will free the part of the intestine that has become compressed and then proceeds to clear the obstruction. Any intestinal tissue that has died as a result of the lack of blood supply will be removed and then the surgeon will complete the operation with sutures. Sometimes intussusception can clear by itself without treatment, but you should not avoid medical help in hopes that it does.

As with all possible medical conditions, you should seek medical help if you think you are suffering from any type of medical emergency. Someone with intussusception can go on to lead a normal and healthy life once the condition is taken care of. Prompt medical attention is essential to ensure that the intestines are treated before the obstruction blocks blood supply. Once you have found the appropriate treatment plan for your intussusception, you can go on to live a healthy and happy life.


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Jeanne Rose
Jeanne Rose lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been a freelance writer since 2010. She took Allied Health in vocational school where she earned her CNA/PCA, and worked in a hospital for 3 years. Jeanne enjoys writing about science, health, politics, business, and other topics as well.