The digestive system processes and uses the nutrients in food. The intestines are a part of the digestive tract that runs from the mouth to the anus. If you spread out the intestines end-to-end, they would stretch several feet long. In the body, the intestines are folded tightly and take up only part of the abdomen.

Intussusception occurs when one part of the intestine telescopes (slides) into a nearby part of the intestine, creating unusual folds. These folds block food or liquid from passing through the intestine normally and can cut off blood flow. Intussusception is a serious condition — if not properly diagnosed and treated, it can lead to complications, including:

  • Gangrene (death of intestine tissue)
  • Infection
  • Perforation (tear) in the intestine

Symptoms of Intussusception

Symptoms and signs of this condition may include:

  • Abdominal pain that comes and goes (intermittent)
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Lump or swelling in the abdomen
  • Pulling knees to chest (due to abdominal pain)
  • Stool mixed with mucus and blood
  • Vomiting

When to see a doctor

Take your child to the emergency room right away if they experience any of the above symptoms. Intussusception is considered a medical emergency — it is the most common serious abdominal condition in children younger than 2.

Causes of Intussusception

In most cases, experts don’t know what causes intussusception in children. In rare cases, it may be a virus affecting the digestive tract that causes intussusception.

Who’s at risk

For unknown reasons, male children are more at risk for intussusception than female children. Other factors that can increase your child’s risk for developing this condition include:

  • Being between the ages of 6 months and 3 years
  • Congenital (present at birth) intestinal conditions, such as malrotation of the bowel
  • Family member (such as a sibling) having intussusception

Request an Appointment

Find the closest ER to you

If you suspect that your child may have intussusception, find the closest emergency room to you so your child can start on the road to improved health.