An intussusception is a medical condition in which a part of the intestine goes into another, typically the Ileum into the Ascending colon causing a intestinal obstruction.

An easy way to visualize the mechanism is to imagine when you collapse a telescope, that is essentially what happens to the intestines.



  • Bowel-within-bowel appearance: Alternating layers of bowel wall & mesenteric fat
  • Target appearance in cross section on CT & US
  • Small bowel intussusception(SBI) features that differentiate it from ileocolic intussusception
  • Smaller diameter (mean of 1.5 vs. 2.6 cm)
  • Entrapped lymph nodes less common
  • More common in periumbilical or left abdomen


Sonographic findings that may indicate need for surgery

  1. Length > 3.5 cm
  2. Findings of small bowel obstruction(SBO) & ascites
  3. Pathologic lead point (but US has low sensitivity)

The part that prolapses into the other is called the intussusceptum, and the part that receives it is called the intussuscepiens (think recipient).

Intussusception is a medical emergency and a patient should be seen immediately to reduce complications up to and including bowel necrosis.

Enteroenteric Intussusception

A patient may present with abdominal pain and cramping, especially in an episodic crampy nature. They may have “red currant jelly stool” which is bloody stool seen in late intussuceptions, from resulting hemorrhage.

Sonographically you want scan from RUQ to RLQ and search for a large (2 cm or bigger) target like lesion. The protocol goes on to include the LUQ, LLQ Pelvis, epigastrium and umbilical regions. There will often times be lymph nodes near and within the lesion, this is believed to be one of the causes, large lymph nodes can get trapped with peristalsis leading to the Intussusception

One thing to consider is small bowel intussusception which is a transient intussusception that doesnt require treatment, typically waiting 15 minutes will see it resolve.

Small bowel intussusceptions will be smaller and can be located anywhere in the abdomen. They are a transient self resolving condition and are often found in asymptomatic patients. If you see an intussuception that is small , you should wait up to at least 15-30 minutes, though often less time to see resolution. If not the patient may be rescanned a little later to ensure it has resolved. Small bowel intussusceptions do not require treatment.

Small bowel int

Intussusception is treated with air enema under radiographic guidance. There is an incidence of recurrence in approximately 10% of patients.


Intussusception caused by Meckel’s Divertiuclumn

Intussusception ischemia

Case #2

Ileocolic intussusception

Henry Suarez RDMS, RVT


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