Is Intussusception a Middle-of-the-Night Emergency?

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Intussusception is the most common abdominal emergency in pediatric patients aged 6 months to 3 years. There is often a delay in diagnosis, as the presentation can be confused for viral gastroenteritis. Given this scenario, we questioned the practice of performing emergency reductions in children during the night when minimal support staff are available. Pneumatic reduction is not a benign procedure, with the most significant risk being bowel perforation. We performed this analysis to determine whether it would be safe to delay reduction in these patients until normal working hours when more support staff are available.


We performed a retrospective review of intussusceptions occurring between January 2010 and May 2015 at 2 tertiary care institutions. The medical record for each patient was evaluated for age at presentation, sex, time of presentation to clinician or the emergency department, and time to reduction. The outcomes of attempted reduction were documented, as well as time to surgery and surgical findings in applicable cases. A Wilcoxon rank test was used to compare the median time with nonsurgical intervention among those who did not undergo surgery to the median time to nonsurgical intervention among those who ultimately underwent surgery for reduction. Multivariable logistic regression was used to test the association between surgical intervention and time to nonsurgical reduction, adjusting for the age of patients.


The median time to nonsurgical intervention was higher among patients who ultimately underwent surgery than among those who did not require surgery (17.9 vs 7.0 hours; P < 0.0001). The time to nonsurgical intervention was positively associated with a higher probability of surgical intervention (P = 0.002).


Intussusception should continue to be considered an emergency, with nonsurgical reduction attempted promptly as standard of care.

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