Dr AvinashTank, is a super-specialist (MCh) Laparoscopic Gastro-intestinal Surgeon,

Intussusception and Small Bowel Obstruction

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Intussusception and Small Bowel Obstruction
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Intussusception and Small Bowel Obstruction. Intussusception is a condition where one part of the intestine telescopes or slides into another, causing an obstruction. When this occurs in the small bowel, it can lead to small bowel obstruction. The exact cause of intussusception is often unknown but can be associated with various factors, including infections, lymph nodes, or structural abnormalities in the intestine.

How intussusception can progress to small bowel obstruction:

Intussusception can lead to small bowel obstruction due to the way this condition affects the intestine. Here’s a detailed explanation of how intussusception causes small bowel obstruction:

Intussusception is a medical condition in which one segment of the intestine telescopes or invaginates into an adjacent segment, much like when you fold the parts of a telescope into each other. This telescoping causes a blockage or obstruction in the intestine.


  1. Telescoping: Intussusception typically occurs when a portion of the intestine, known as the “intussusceptum,” folds into an adjacent part called the “intussuscipiens.”
  2. Obstruction: As the intussusceptum moves into the intussuscipiens, it acts as a physical barrier, blocking the normal flow of intestinal contents. This blockage disrupts the regular digestive and peristaltic movements of the intestine, which are responsible for propelling food, liquids, and waste materials through the digestive tract.
  3. Impaired Blood Flow: The trapped or telescoped section of the intestine may experience compromised blood flow. Reduced blood supply to the affected intestinal segment can lead to tissue damage and, in severe cases, gangrene, which is the death of the intestinal tissue.

Resulting Small Bowel Obstruction:

  1. Pressure Buildup: The blockage caused by intussusception creates pressure upstream (proximal to the blockage) within the small bowel. This pressure buildup can lead to abdominal pain, discomfort, and distension.
  2. Impaired Digestive Processes: With the obstruction, food, fluids, and digestive secretions cannot pass through the blocked area, leading to nausea, vomiting, and constipation.
  3. Gastrointestinal Symptoms: The patient often experiences symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and “currant jelly” stool, which is stool mixed with blood and mucus.
  4. Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance: Prolonged obstruction can result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalances because the body loses fluids and essential electrolytes through vomiting and inadequate intake.
  5. Risk of Perforation: Intussusception can place significant pressure on the intestinal wall. If left untreated, it may cause the affected segment to rupture or perforate, which can lead to infection and more severe complications.

Risk Factors:

  • Age: Intussusception is more common in children, especially between 3 months and 6 years of age.
  • Prior Episodes: Having a history of intussusception increases the risk.
  • Infections: Certain viral infections may predispose individuals to intussusception.
  • Meckel’s Diverticulum: Presence of this congenital abnormality in the intestine can be a risk factor.
  • Recent Abdominal Surgery: Surgery in the abdominal area can increase the likelihood of adhesions and, in turn, intussusception.


  • Severe abdominal pain, often with intermittent episodes.
  • Vomiting.
  • “Currant jelly” stool, which is stool mixed with blood and mucus.
  • Abdominal swelling or a palpable abdominal mass.
  • Irritability in children.


  • Physical examination.
  • Ultrasound, which is highly effective in identifying intussusception.
  • An enema using air or liquid contrast can both diagnose and treat intussusception in some cases.


The treatment of intussusception typically involves reducing the intussusception by pushing the telescoped part of the intestine back into place. This can be done using a variety of methods, including:


Hydrostatic reduction:

  • This is the most common method used to reduce intussusception. It involves inserting a small tube into the rectum and filling the colon with fluid. The pressure of the fluid helps to push the telescoped part of the intestine back into place.


Air enema:

  • This is similar to hydrostatic reduction, but instead of using fluid, air is used to inflate the colon.


Endoscopic reduction:

  • This is a minimally invasive procedure that can be used to reduce intussusception. A thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end is inserted into the rectum and used to guide a small balloon to the site of the intussusception. The balloon is then inflated to push the telescoped part of the intestine back into place.



  • If the intussusception cannot be reduced using non-surgical methods, surgery may be necessary. The surgeon will make an incision in the abdomen and manually reduce the .


When to Consult a Doctor:

  • If you or your child experiences severe abdominal pain, vomiting, or any of the mentioned symptoms, seek immediate medical attention, as these could be signs of intussusception or other serious abdominal conditions.


  • Since the cause of intussusception is often unknown, specific prevention measures are challenging. Early diagnosis and prompt medical care are key to preventing complications.


  • Intussusception is a condition where part of the intestine slides into another, causing a potential small bowel obstruction. It is more common in children and may require enema reduction or surgical intervention. Seeking prompt medical attention is crucial for diagnosis and treatment. While prevention is challenging, early intervention can help minimize complications.

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