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Questions & Answers about Intussusception

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What is intussusception?

Intussusception is a type of bowel blockage caused when the bowel folds into itself like a telescope. This condition is rare. It is most likely to occur among infants (first year of life). When no rotavirus vaccine was used in the United States, each year about 1,900 infants developed intussusception before the age of 1 year. With prompt treatment, almost all infants who develop intussusception fully recover.

 

What are the symptoms of intussusception in infants?

Episodes of abdominal pain with severe crying (which may last for only brief periods) and vomiting are early symptoms. A baby may also develop blood in the stool.

 

When my infant receives rotavirus vaccine, what should I watch for in case there is a side effect?

Most babies who get rotavirus vaccine have no problems with it. Babies are slightly more likely to be irritable, or to have mild, temporary diarrhea or vomiting after a dose of rotavirus vaccine.

Some studies have shown a small increase in cases of intussusception from rotavirus vaccine. These studies estimate a risk ranging from about 1 intussusception case in every 20,000 infants to 1 intussusception case in every 100,000 infants after vaccination. Intussusception would most likely happen during the first week after the 1st or 2nd dose of rotavirus vaccine.

During the first week after the first or second dose of vaccine, if your baby develops episodes of stomach pain with severe crying (which may be brief), several episodes of vomiting, blood in the stool, or acts weak or very irritable, you should contact a doctor promptly and tell them your infant recently received rotavirus vaccine.

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My baby got the first dose of rotavirus vaccine more than 1 week ago and is doing well. Is there still a possibility of intussusception related to vaccination?

Studies suggest that the risk of intussusception caused by rotavirus vaccine is primarily in the first week after the first dose. There may be a small chance that babies will develop intussusception after one week of getting vaccinated.

Although it is rare, infants may develop intussusception unrelated to vaccine at any time. If your baby appears very ill at any time, always contact a health care professional promptly.

 

How is intussusception treated in the United States?

A radiologist (a specialized doctor in a hospital) usually can unfold the intussusception by using air or fluid to push the folded part of the bowel back into its normal position. In about a third of intussusception cases in infants, surgery is required to unfold the bowel. In a small percentage of infants, the blocked section of bowel must be removed (called resection).

 

What are known causes of intussusception?

Most of the time, the cause is not known. Some cases may be caused by a bowel infection. Some cases may be caused by a polyp or tumor in the bowel—both of these are groups of cells growing in the bowel that are not normal. Intussusception is most common among infants (first year of life). When no rotavirus vaccine was used in the United States, each year about 1,900 infants developed intussusception before the age of 1 year. With prompt treatment, almost all infants with intussusception fully recover.

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