Radiology

What Is Intussusception?

Image: Ultrasound image of intussusception. Red arrow: inside bowel loop (intussusseptum). Blue arrow: outside bowel loop, the wall is thickened from edema (intussussipiens). Image contributed by Dr. Aaron McAllister.

Intussusception is a condition in which one part of the bowel telescopes into the bowel next to it. Ileocolic intussusception is a specific type in which the small bowel telescopes into the colon. Treatment of this type of intussusception is required because the small bowel can get trapped in the colon and become injured.

Ileocolic intussusception most commonly occurs in children 3 months to 3 years of age during the late fall, winter, and spring. Children often complain of abdominal pain and may have bloody stools that resemble currant jelly.

Image: Procedure to treat intussusception with air.

The diagnosis of ileocolic intussusception is most often made with ultrasound. Once the diagnosis is made, the intussusception can be treated (“reduced”) in Radiology. Reduction of an intussusception involves inflating the colon by instilling air through a small tube placed in the rectum. As the air inflates the colon, the pressure pushes the telescoped piece of bowel out and back into normal position. The vast majority of ileocolic intussusceptions are successfully treated in this way. Surgery may be indicated in certain cases but is used much more rarely.

Image: Inflating the colon by instilling air.

Our radiology department has extensive experience diagnosing and treating ileocolic intussusception. In fact, the inflating device used worldwide for the treatment of ileocolic intussusception was developed by radiologists in our department over two decades ago!

Contributed by Dr. Michael Aquino and edited Glenn Miñano, BFA.

Glenn Miñano

About the Author: Glenn Miñano

Glenn Miñano is a media specialist in the Department of Radiology, providing graphic design, photography, printing, video services, and administration of the department’s online properties. His works have been published in several medical articles, such as the American Journal of Radiology and the American Institute of Ultrasound. He has been providing these services to the Radiology Department since 1996.

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