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Intussusception in adults: an unusual and challenging condition for surgeons


Background and aims

Intestinal intussusception in adults is a rare entity and there is an ongoing controversy regarding the optimal management of this problem. The purpose of this study was to determine the causes and management of intussusception in adults.

Patients and methods

A retrospective review of patients more than 18 years of age with a diagnosis of intestinal intussusception between January 1996 and December 2003 was conducted. Data related to presentation, diagnosis, treatment, and pathology were analyzed.


A total of 13 patients were operated on due to intestinal intussusception. There were 6 men and 7 women with a mean age of 45 years (range 24–61 years). Abdominal pain was the most common presenting complaint (100%). Eight (61.5%) patients presented with acute symptoms and underwent emergency laparotomy. The diagnosis of gastrointestinal intussusception was made preoperatively only in 4 (30.7%) patients by abdominal ultrasonography and computerized tomography. The lead point of intussusception was located in the small intestine in 10 (76.9%) patients, in the colon in 2 (15.4%), and in the ileocecal valve in 1 (7.7%). A pathologic cause for the intussusception was identified in 12 (92.3%) cases and 1 (7.7%) was idiopathic. Of the cases with a defined cause, 58% of the cases were benign and 42% were malignant. Forty percent of cases of small bowel intussusception and 33.3% of cases of colonic intussusception were due to malignant lesions. All cases of small intestinal intussusception were reduced and no perforation occurred. Segmental intestinal resection was performed in 9 patients and excision of the Meckel’s diverticulum was made in 1. In cases of colonic intussusception, reduction was not attempted and en-bloc resection was carried out. No perforation or spillage of the contents of the intussusception was observed. There was no surgical mortality.


Adult intussusception is an unusual and challenging condition that represents a preoperative diagnostic difficulty. We think that colonic intussusceptions should be resected in an en-bloc manner without reduction due to the risk of perforation and spillage of micro-organisms and malignant cells, whereas cases of small intestinal intussusception can be reduced without complications unless there is strangulation.

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Correspondence to Nazif Erkan.

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Erkan, N., Hacıyanlı, M., Yıldırım, M. et al. Intussusception in adults: an unusual and challenging condition for surgeons. Int J Colorectal Dis 20, 452–456 (2005).

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  • Adult
  • Intussusception
  • Intestine