Small bowel intussusception is a condition that causes the small intestine to fold in on itself, causing a blockage in the digestive system. This can be a serious medical condition if not properly treated. Symptoms of small bowel intussusception include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and intestinal obstruction. It’s important to understand what small bowel intussusception is, what causes it, and how you can manage it.
Who is at risk of developing small bowel intussusception?
Individuals of any age can be at risk for developing small bowel intussusception. However, it is more likely to occur in children than adults. In fact, intussusception is the most common cause of intestinal obstruction in children younger than three years old. Premature infants and newborns and those born with a congenital disability or malformation of the intestines may also be at higher risk for the condition.
Additionally, patients undergoing abdominal or gynecological surgeries are more likely to develop adhesions that can lead to small bowel intussusception. The cause of most cases of intussusception in children is unknown. Though intussusception is rare in adults, most cases of adult intussusception are the result of an underlying medical condition, such as a tumor.
Common Causes of Small Bowel Intussusception
Adhesions in the intestines
Adhesions in the intestines are a common cause of small bowel intussusception. These adhesions occur when the intestines form bands of scar tissue that attach themselves and can cause one loop of the intestine to extrude into another. Adhesions can be caused by abdominal or gynecological surgery, infection, inflammation, or radiation treatment.
Hernia repairs, appendix removal, or scar tissue from an abdominal infection
Hernia repairs, appendix removal, and scar tissue from an abdominal infection can all put a person at risk for developing small bowel intussusception. After any surgery in the abdomen, adhesions may form that can cause one loop of the intestine to become stuck inside another, leading to obstruction and a buildup of bodily fluids, which can cause pain and discomfort. When a hernia is repaired or an appendix is removed, the intestines are manipulated and stretched during the procedure, which may lead to adhesions. Scar tissue from an abdominal infection or other inflammatory condition may also increase the risk for intussusception.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition in which chronic inflammation can occur in the digestive tract, resulting in abdominal pain and other symptoms. In some cases, IBD may lead to small bowel intussusception due to adhesions or other complications. Patients with IBD should be monitored closely for signs of intussusception, such as cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or intestinal obstruction. If these symptoms are present, prompt treatment is needed to avoid lasting damage to the digestive system.
Polyps and tumors
Large growths in the intestine, such as polyps and tumors, can also cause intussusception. These growths obstruct the normal path of the intestines, resulting in a buildup of bodily fluids and severe pain. In some cases, the blockage may be so severe that it requires emergency surgery to remove the obstruction. Patients with a history of polyps or tumors should be closely monitored for signs of intussusception to ensure prompt treatment.
Radiotherapy treatment for certain conditions, such as cancer, can also lead to intussusception. This is because radiation, over time, can damage the intestinal walls and cause inflammation. As a result, the intestines may become stuck together and form an obstruction that needs to be treated promptly. It is important for patients receiving radiotherapy treatment to be aware of the potential risk of intussusception so that they can seek medical attention if any symptoms arise.
Mechanical obstruction due to large amounts of fecal matter or food particles blocking part of the intestine
The blockage causes the intestine to become stuck inside another, resulting in a buildup of bodily fluids and severe pain. In some cases, manual obstruction removal may be necessary, and emergency surgery may be required to resolve the issue. It is important to seek medical attention immediately if any signs of intussusception occur to ensure prompt treatment.
Diagnosis: Endoscopy and CT scans to identify underlying causes
Endoscopy is a test that examines the inside of the abdominal cavity for bowel obstruction using an instrument. At the same time, a CT scan is an imaging procedure that detects any intestines’ blockages. These diagnostic tests can help doctors determine the cause of intussusception and devise an appropriate treatment plan. In some cases, endoscopic or surgical intervention may be required to relieve the obstruction and resolve any complications.
Treatment Options for Small Bowel Intussusception
Short-term medication to manage symptoms while healing occurs
Short-term medications may be prescribed to manage symptoms of intussusception while healing occurs. Pain relievers and antispasmodic medications can help reduce abdominal pain, while anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce inflammation in the affected area. In some cases, a dietary change may also be recommended to provide relief from symptoms. It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully when taking any medication and to seek medical advice if any side effects occur.
Surgery depending on the severity of issues present within individual cases
Surgery is often recommended as a treatment for intussusception, especially if an obstruction or tumor has caused it. The procedure involves removing the obstructing tissue and allowing the intestines to slide back into their normal position. In some cases, a stent may be used to reduce any swelling in the area and improve blood flow. Surgery can often be done on an outpatient basis with minimal risks, although long-term monitoring of the affected area is usually necessary.
Managing Small Bowel Intussusceptions: The Key Takeaways
Intussusceptions occur when one segment of the small intestine slides into another, causing obstruction and discomfort. Managing intussusception is important, as left untreated can lead to serious health complications.
The key takeaways for managing small bowel intussusception include:
- Early diagnosis and intervention are important for successful treatment outcomes
- Seeking prompt medical attention, correctly following any treatment plan prescribed by your doctor
- Using medications to reduce pain and inflammation
- Making diet changes that can alleviate symptoms.
Surgery may also be necessary in more serious cases. It is essential to seek medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider if you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of intussusception.