Project Description

Clinical presentation and management of childhood intussusception in South Africa.

Cox S, Withers A, Arnold M, Chitnis M, de Vos C, Kirsten M, le Grange SM, Loveland J, Machaea S, Maharaj A, Madhi SA, Tate JE, Parashar UD, Groome MJ.



We assessed management and outcomes for intussusception at nine academic hospitals in South Africa.


Patients ≤ 3 years presenting with intussusception between September 2013 and December 2017 were prospectively enrolled at all sites. Additionally, patients presenting between July 2012 and August 2013 were retrospectively enrolled at one site. Demographics, clinical information, diagnostic modality, reduction methods, surgical intervention and outcomes were reviewed.


Four hundred seventy-six patients were enrolled, [54% males, median age 6.5 months (IQR 2.6–32.6)]. Vomiting (92%), bloody stool (91%), abdominal mass (57%), fever (32%) and a rectal mass (29%) represented advanced disease: median symptom duration was 3 days (IQR 1–4).

Initial reduction attempts included pneumatic reduction (66%) and upfront surgery (32%). The overall non-surgical reduction rate was 28% and enema perforation rate was 4%. Surgery occurred in 334 (70%), 68 (20%) patients had perforated bowel, bowel resection was required in 61%.

Complications included recurrence (2%) and nosocomial sepsis (4%). Length of stay (LOS) was significantly longer in patients who developed complications. Six patients died—a mortality rate of 1%. There was a significant difference in reduction rates, upfront surgery, bowel resection, LOS and mortality between centres with shorter symptom duration compared longer symptom duration.


Delayed presentation was common and associated with low success for enema reduction, higher operative rates, higher rates of bowel resection and increased LOS. Improved primary health-care worker education and streamlining referral pathways might facilitate timely management.

Keywords: Intussusception, Reduction methods, Surgical intervention, Outcomes, Paediatric
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