Children

The first sign of intussusception in an otherwise healthy infant may be sudden, loud crying caused by abdominal pain. Infants who have abdominal pain may pull their knees to their chests when they cry. The pain of intussusception comes and goes, usually every 15 to 20 minutes at first. These painful episodes last longer and happen more often as time passes.

Other frequent signs and symptoms of intussusception include:

  • Stool mixed with blood and mucus (sometimes referred to as "currant jelly" stool because of its appearance)
  • Vomiting
  • A lump in the abdomen
  • Lethargy

Less common signs and symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Constipation

Some infants have no obvious pain, don't pass blood or have a lump in the abdomen. Some older children have pain but no other symptoms.

Adults

Because intussusception is rare in adults and symptoms of the disorder are often nonspecific, it is more challenging to identify. Abdominal pain is the most common symptom, followed by nausea and vomiting and diarrhea. A significant percentage of people have no signs and symptoms.

When to see a doctor

Intussusception requires emergency medical care. If you or your child develops the signs or symptoms listed above, seek medical help right away.

In infants, remember that signs of abdominal pain may include recurrent bouts of pulling the knees to the chest and crying.

Dec. 14, 2012

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