How is intussusception treated?

Once intussusception is diagnosed, the next step is to attempt reduction (to push the intestine back) using a liquid contrast enema or air contrast enema (the same tests that are used for diagnosis). This is a radiologic procedure, not a surgical procedure, and the patient does not need anesthesia.

The liquid contrast enema and air contrast enema procedures have a 60 to 70 percent success rate, with a 6 to 10 percent rate of intussusception recurrence (return). They have a low risk of complications, as well. If radiologic reduction is unsuccessful, then the patient will need surgery. Surgery may also be done if there is a great deal of infection, or if the patient is too ill for the radiologic procedure.

During the surgery

  • The child is fully sedated by a pediatric anesthesiologist (a specialist in pain relief and sedation in children).
  • If laparoscopy will be performed, small instruments and a camera will be inserted through small incisions (cuts) into the abdominal cavity.
  • Alternatively, a small incision is made on the right side of the abdomen, and the intestine is pushed back into its normal position.
  • If the intussusception cannot be reduced, then the surgeon will remove the involved segment of bowel.

After the surgery

Your child is given pain medication to keep him or her comfortable after the surgery. The child will require intravenous (in the vein) fluids for several days, because the intestines are temporarily slowed. Feedings are not given during this period. Most children are able to eat again in one to three days.

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