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Clin Radiol. 1999 Jul;54(7):452-8.

Survey of intussusception reduction in England, Scotland and Wales: how and why we could do better.

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Radiology Department, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London, UK.



The aim of our study was to assess the variation in technique among hospitals in England, Wales and Scotland. In addition, local in hospital variation among paediatric radiologists at our own institution was assessed.


Postal questionnaires were distributed to the radiology departments of 301 hospitals.


183 (60.8%) replies were received. 122 institutions reduced intussusceptions and 61 did not. A lack of paediatric surgical and/or anaesthetic cover, and a lack of radiological experience were the major reasons cited by the departments which did not attempt intussusception reduction. Sixty-five hospitals use barium for hydrostatic reduction, 43 employ pneumatic reduction, 10 use water-soluble enemas and four use ultrasound. Of the 65 centres using barium 16 (25%) reported a success rate of less than 50%, 24 (37%) had a 50-70% success rate, seven (11%) reduce greater than 70% of intussusceptions and 18 (27%) did not know. In the 43 institutions employing air reduction, one (2%) had a success rate less than 50%, 20 (47%) had a 50-70% success rate, 17 (40%) a success rate greater than 70% and five (11%) did not know. Overall, of the total number of hospitals which replied to our survey, 28 (23%) reported that they were not aware of their success rates. Within the pneumatic reduction group in particular there was marked variation in the methods and duration of attempted reduction - between different hospitals and within the same institution. In six departments the machine used for pneumatic reduction did not measure intraluminal pressure.


Ultrasound is underutilized despite being a sensitive method in diagnosis. There is almost certainly an over-reliance on plain radiographs and on the use of sedation, antibiotics and anti-spasmodics in general. We believe a 70% or greater success rate should be achievable in most institutions whether by pneumatic or hydrostatic reduction, and all departments should strive to achieve success rates in this range. Less than a quarter of centres who replied currently achieve this standard. Successful reduction rates below 50% are unacceptable in our opinion. Not surprisingly, success rates are generally highest in those centres treating more than 20 cases per annum. Twenty-eight (23%) of hospitals performing intussusception reductions did not know their success rates. Regular audits of intussesception figures should take place in all institutions. Unacceptably wide variations in intussusception reduction techniques currently exist. An accurate pressure release valve at least, and preferably intraluminal pressure monitoring should be an integral component of all pneumatic reduction devices. The British Paediatric Radiology and Imaging Group or the Royal College of Radiology should address these issues and introduce some standardization of practice.

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