Retrospective surveillance of intussusception in South Africa, 1998-2003

J Infect Dis. 2010 Sep 1;202 Suppl:S156-61. doi: 10.1086/653563.


Background: Intussusception is a common gastrointestinal emergency in children and appears to have a somewhat different clinical spectrum in developing countries. Its etiology is still unclear, but a link to infective agents and viruses has been highlighted. This study aimed to assess the clinical spectrum and prevalence of intussusception in children from the diverse South African population.

Methods: Retrospective data were obtained from 9 participating pediatric referral units on the occurrence of intussusception in South African children (<14 years old) during a 6-year period (1998-2003). Results were correlated with national population statistics. Intussusception was anatomically classified into ileoileal, ileocolic, and colocolic types. The clinical features, management, outcome, and possible causes were examined.

Results: We reviewed the occurrence and clinical spectrum of intussusception in 423 children (age, 0-14 years) presenting with acute intussusception to 9 pediatric surgical centers. The mean duration of symptoms was 1.5 days, but a delayed presentation was common (median delay, 2.3 days). Intussusception occurred throughout the year, with a peak in the summer months. The majority of patients (89%) were <2 years old, and 78% presented at age 3-18 months of age. Crude population estimates indicate an occurrence of 1 case per 3123 population <2 years old. Only 11% of patients presented after 2 years of age, and the age at presentation was significantly lower (P < .05) in black African patients. All ethnic groups were affected. In 84% of patients, intussusception occurred at the ileocolic region junction, in 7% it was ileoileal, and in 9% it was colocolic. Colocolic intussusception appeared more common in black African patients, and associated pathologic conditions (polyps and Burkitt's lymphoma) occurred mainly in older children. Surgical intervention was required in 81% of patients and involved resection of gangrenous bowel in 40%.

Conclusion: Intussusception appears to be a relatively frequent occurrence in children in South Africa. Although the clinical spectrum appears to vary, there is an apparent link to intestinal infection, which requires further investigation. A collaborative approach is required to ascertain the relationship of intussusception to preventable infections and to improve its diagnosis and management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Enema / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intussusception / epidemiology*
  • Intussusception / surgery
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seasons
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Treatment Outcome