Objective: The objectives were to review adult intussusception, its diagnosis, and its treatment.
Summary background data: Adult intussusception represents 1% of all bowel obstructions, 5% of all intussusceptions, and 0.003%-0.02% of all hospital admissions. Intussusception is a different entity in adults than it is in children.
Methods: The records of all patients 18 years and older with the postoperative diagnosis of intussusception at the Massachusetts General Hospital during the years 1964 through 1993 were reviewed retrospectively. The 58 patients were divided into those with benign enteric, malignant enteric, benign colonic, and malignant colonic lesions associated with their intussusception. The diagnosis and treatment of each were reviewed.
Results: In 30 years at the Massachusetts General Hospital, there are 58 cases of surgically proven adult intussusception. The patients' mean age was 54.4 years. Most patients presented with symptoms consistent with bowel obstruction. There were 44 enteric and 14 colonic intussusceptions. Ninety-three percent of the intussusceptions were associated with a pathologic lesion. Forty-eight percent of the enteric lesions were malignant and 52% were benign. Forty-three percent of the colonic lesions were malignant and 57% were benign.
Conclusions: Intussusception occurs rarely in adults. It presents with a variety of acute, intermittent, and chronic symptoms, thus making its preoperative diagnosis difficult. Computed tomography scanning proved to be the most useful diagnostic radiologic method. The diagnosis and treatment of adult intussusception are surgical. Surgical resection of the intussusception without reduction is the preferred treatment in adults, as almost half of both colonic and enteric intussusceptions are associated with malignancy.