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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2016 Aug;207(2):424-33. doi: 10.2214/AJR.15.15659. Epub 2016 May 25.

Failed Intussusception Reduction in Children: Correlation Between Radiologic, Surgical, and Pathologic Findings.

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1 The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 324 S 34th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104.



The objective of this study was to identify causes of irreducible intussusception after contrast enema and to correlate imaging findings with surgical and histopathologic findings.


Between 2005 and 2013, a total of 543 children underwent reduction of intussusception with the use of an enema technique (hereafter referred to as "enema reduction"). The medical records of 72 children (56 boys [mean age, 24.8 months; range, 3.8 months to 10.9 years] and 16 girls [mean age, 14.2 months; range, 1.5 months to 6.9 years) who underwent unsuccessful reduction and were treated surgically were retrospectively analyzed. The data collected included information on the cause of intussusception, the risk factors noted on ultrasound, operative management, outcome, and the length of the hospital stay. The imaging findings for these patients were compared with findings for statistically similar age-matched control subjects.


Ultrasound detected 56 of 57 cases of intussusception, but it failed to detect the lead point in three cases and failed to detect ischemic necrosis in seven cases. Positive predictors of failed enema reduction were the presence of a distal mass and observation of the dissecting sign. Of the 72 patients who underwent surgical treatment of intussusception, 26 (36.1%) underwent laparoscopy, 38 (52.8%) underwent laparotomy, and eight (11.1%) underwent conversion from laparoscopy to laparotomy. Surgical reduction was performed in 61.1% of cases, small bowel resection in 19.4%, ileocecectomy in 12.5%, and self-reduction in 69%. Pathologic lead points (noted in 25% of cases) included lymphoid hyperplasia (n = 7), Meckel diverticulum (n = 3), Burkitt lymphoma (n = 3), enteric duplication cyst (n = 2), juvenile polyp (n = 2), and adenovirus appendicitis (n = 1). The length of the hospital stay was significantly longer after laparotomy.


The distalmost location of the intussusception mass and presence of the dissecting sign on images obtained during contrast enema have a higher positive predictive value for failed reduction. Screening ultrasound decreases the number of unnecessary contrast enemas performed; however, classic pathologic lead points, such as Burkitt lymphoma and Meckel diverticulum, may be difficult to diagnose with the use of ultrasound. Laparotomy and laparoscopy are equally safe and efficacious in reducing intussusception, with the length of the hospital stay after laparoscopy significantly shorter than that noted after laparotomy. Most failed enema reductions are idiopathic, and pathologic lead points are noted in 25% of cases.


air enema; failed reduction; fluoroscopic reduction; fluoroscopy; intussusception; laparoscopy; laparotomy; ultrasound

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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