Intussusception in Adults

By Medically reviewed by Hello Doktor Medical Panel


What is intussusception in adults?

Intussusception is a serious condition in which part of the intestine slides into an adjacent part of the intestine. This “telescoping” often blocks food or fluid from passing through. Intussusception also cuts off the blood supply to the part of the intestine that’s affected, which can lead to a tear in the bowel (perforation), infection and death of bowel tissue.

How common is intussusception in adults?

Cases of intussusception in adults are fairly rare; only 5% of intussusception cases are in adults. Both males and females are affected, but males are more likely to be affected than females. All racial and ethnic groups are at risk. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of intussusception in adults?

Because intussusception is rare in adults and symptoms of the disorder often overlap with the symptoms of other disorders, it’s more challenging to identify. The most common symptom is abdominal pain that comes and goes. Nausea and vomiting may also occur. People sometimes have symptoms for weeks before seeking medical attention.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes intussusception in adults?

Your intestine is shaped like a long tube. In intussusception, one part of your intestine — usually the small intestine — slides inside an adjacent part. This is sometimes called telescoping because it’s similar to the way a collapsible telescope folds together.

In some cases, the telescoping is caused by an abnormal growth in the intestine, such as a polyp or a tumor (called a lead point). The normal wave-like contractions of the intestine grab this lead point and pull it and the lining of the intestine into the bowel ahead of it. In most cases, however, no cause can be identified for intussusception.

In adults, intussusception is usually the result of a medical condition or procedure, including:

  • A polyp or tumor
  • Scar-like tissue in the intestine (adhesions)
  • Weight-loss surgery (gastric bypass) or other surgery on the intestinal tract
  • Inflammation due to diseases such as Crohn’s disease

Risk factors

What increases my risk for intussusception in adults?

There are many risk factors for intussusception in adults, such as:

  • Previous episode of intussusception
  • Family’s medical history

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is intussusception in adults diagnosed?

  • Ultrasound or other abdominal imaging. An ultrasound, X-ray or computerized tomography (CT) scan may reveal intestinal obstruction caused by intussusception. Imaging will typically show a “bull’s-eye,” representing the intestine coiled within the intestine. Abdominal imaging also can show if the intestine has been torn (perforated).
  • Air or barium enema. An air or barium enema is basically enhanced imaging of the colon. During the procedure, the doctor will insert air or liquid barium into the colon through the rectum.

How is intussusception in adults treated?

Treatment of intussusception typically happens as a medical emergency. Emergency medical care is required to avoid severe dehydration and shock, as well as prevent infection that can occur when a portion of intestine dies due to lack of blood.

Often, adults with intussusception have large structural issues in the intestines and surgery is necessary. Unlike intussusception in small children, air and barium enemas are not frequently used as treatment options in adults.

The point of bowel obstruction in the intestines is removed and either replaced or reduced with a surgical procedure. The surgeon will free the portion of the intestine that is trapped, clear the obstruction and, if necessary, remove any of the intestinal tissue that has died. Surgery is the main treatment for adults and for people who are acutely ill.

In some cases, intussusception may be temporary and go away without treatment.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage intussusception in adults?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you prevent intussusception in adults:

Intussusception is difficult to prevent, since it can be caused by a pre-existing condition. If other secondary or underlying conditions are already present, then proper care and treatment (if necessary) must be taken, so that the illness does not lead to a complete bowel obstruction.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Review Date: November 20, 2017 | Last Modified: December 8, 2019

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