Intussusception history and symptoms
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A positive history of abdominal pain, vomiting, rectal bleeding, and lethargy is suggestive of intussusception. Presentation of intussusception is very variable. Suspicion for intussusception should be kept on a high index, especially in children aged 3 months to 36 months (peak age of presentation). Obtaining history about different causes of symptoms like fever, exposure to toxins, and ill contacts. Common symptoms include pain, inconsolable crying (baby colic), drawing up of legs, vomiting, abdominal mass, bloody stools, and current jelly stools. There can be intermittent pain free intervals in between episodes of pain which can be confused with an episode of gastroenteritis. The classic triad of pain, sausage-shaped abdominal mass and currant jelly stool are only seen in 15% of initial patient presentation. Atypically patients might present with only abdominal pain and lethargy. Intussusception should be kept in mind in an infant presenting with lethargy or altered consciousness alone.
Patients with intussusception may have a positive history of:
- Abdominal pain which can either be intermittent, severe, crampy, or progressive
- Gross or occult rectal bleeding
- Lethargy which is often episodic
Presentation of intussusception is variable. Suspicion for intussusception should be kept on a high index, especially in children aged 3 months to 36 months (peak age of presentation). But, intussusception might occur in other age groups as well.
Obtaining history about different symptoms is also important, such as:
- Fever - may signify gastroenteritis, appendicitis and infection
- Exposure to toxins - medications, alcohol or poison
- Ill contacts - gastroenteritis
Common symptoms of intussusception include:
- Pain: A toddler or infant presenting with crampy abdominal pain with or without rectal bleeding
- Inconsolable crying (baby colic)
- Drawing up of the legs toward the abdomen
- Episode occur with 15-20 min intervals
- Vomiting usually occurs after the first episode. Initially the vomiting is non-bilious but may convert to bilious as the obstruction progresses
- An abdominal mass (sausage shaped), may be palpated in the right side of abdomen
- Bloody stool or even occult blood
- Current jelly stools which are a mixture of mucous and blood. (This is seen in minority of patients and is a late finding)
- There can be intermittent pain free intervals in between episodes of pain. This may be confused with an episode of gastroenteritis
- Up to 1/5th patients do not present with the triad of abdominal pain, abdominal mass and current jelly stools. They may present with only pain and no other symptoms
- Some patients might just present with lethargy or altered consciousness and no other symptoms that suggest abdominal pathology. This presentation primarily occurs in infants mostly and may be confused with sepsis
- Intussusception should be kept in mind in an infant presenting with lethargy or altered consciousness alone
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