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Intussusception is a disease affecting small children and is defined as the penetration of a portion of the intestine into another part of the intestine lower down (sort of like the finger of a glove being turned inside out). In most cases, the invagination occurs at the junction between the small intestine and the colon. When intussusception occurs, it can lead to intestinal obstruction. This type of event occurs most often in babies between three months and three years of age, and affects boys in 2 cases out of 3. It appears most often in the autumn/winter and in the context of a recent infection.


Intussusception causes intestinal obstruction which will cause pain, constipation and vomiting. In babies, crying, screaming and restlessness may last a few minutes, disappear then reappear a few minutes later with the time between crisis's becoming shorter and shorter. At the same time, the baby may refuse to eat, will vomit, and gradually shows signs of anorexia as well as traces of blood in the stool. The latter symptom merits a trip to the emergency room because it can be a sign of an obstruction of the digestive tract.


The diagnosis of intussusception is based primarily on medical imaging. After clinical examination, a doctor conducts an X-ray of the abdomen and an abdominal ultrasound that will highlight intussusception. Sometimes an enema involves injecting a radio-opaque substance which makes it easier to see the disorder on an X-ray.


It is essential to fix the intussusception as quickly as possible. An enema proves to be an effective treatment in 90% of cases. Indeed, the invaginated portion will gradually be put back in place by the pressure of the liquid injection. A professional should, however, continue to monitor the patient in the hours following this treatment, in the case it remains insufficient. In this case, surgery is required, and sometimes the removal of part of the digestive tract.

Intussusception is a condition that is not predictable and it is therefore impossible to prevent.