Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Intussusception Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Intussusception

Intussusception causes pain in the belly for almost all children who have the condition. In many cases, the pain:

  • Is intense
  • Starts suddenly
  • Comes and goes
  • Tends to get worse each time it returns

Children with pain from intussusception may cry and draw their knees up to their chest. When the pain is gone, the child may seem fine.

Your child may also have any of these symptoms:

  • Swelling in the belly
  • Blood and mucus in the stool, which may look purple
  • Vomiting
  • Sluggishness (lethargy)
  • Weakness
  • Fever

Intussusception Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your child's symptoms. The doctor will also ask you about your child's medical history. Often, children with intussusception have had a recent history of stomach pain and swelling, constipation and bleeding where the stool leaves the body (anus).

The doctor will also give your child a physical exam. They will check your child's belly, and feel for swollen, blocked sections of intestine. The doctor will also look for signs of dehydration and shock.

So your child's doctor can see the intestine, your child may have an X-ray or ultrasound exam of their belly.

Once an intussusception is confirmed by ultrasound, your child will need a test called a contrast enema. This is used to treat the intussusception and can be done either using air or a liquid called barium. The radiologist will decide which one is best for your child.

Putting the air or barium in the intestine usually makes the telescoped section open up. If the intestine opens up, your child doesn’t need surgery.

At Seattle Children’s, doctors usually use air when they do this test. They may use liquid if the air enema did not work or if doctors cannot tell if the intussusception was opened up.

Contact Us

If you have questions about intussusception treatment, call our General and Thoracic Surgery Department at 206-987-2794, extension 4.