Intussusception in children seen at Muhimbili National Hospital, Dar es salaam

  • PMR Carneiro Paediatric Surgery Unit, Department of Surgery, Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences, P. O. Box 65451, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
  • DM Kisusi Paediatric Surgery Unit, Department of Surgery, Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences, P. O. Box 65451, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


Objective: To review infants and children with intussusception and assess its magnitude of concern and any seasonal variation in our environment.

Design: A retrospective study.

Setting: Muhimbili National Hospital general paediatric and surgical wards from January 2000 to February 2004.

Methodology: The charts of all infants and children up to the age of 10 years diagnosed to have intussusception were reviewed. Demographic factors evaluated included age, incidence in up to one-year olds, sex, month of presentation to assess seasonal variation, clinical features, methods of diagnosis and management, aetiology and any recurrence.

Results: Twenty eight children were diagnosed to have intussusception. Sixteen were males and 12 females (M:F=l .3:1). Of these, 21(75%) were infants (up to the age of one year), nine were boys and 12 were girls( M.F=l:1.3). Incidence rate in this age group was approximately 1: 7557. Most cases presented in January-March(39.3%) and July to September(39.3%). No case was seen in the month of April during the 4-year period. Except in 2002, there has been a male preponderance. The aetiology was mainly idiopathic (85.7%), there were three cases suspected to be due to mesenteric adenitis and one case of intraluminal haemangioma. There were two recurrent cases, one was within a week with no known aetiology. All patients presented with vomiting and abdominal pain/distension. Preceding gastro-enteritis was common. The majority of the cases, 17(60.7%) presented with the classic triad of vomiting, rectal bleeding and abdominal pain/distension. Abdominal mass was often difficult to palpate due to gross or tense abdomen and was only palpated in four cases (14.3%). Air or barium reduction is not done at our institution due to apart from lack of facilities, majority of the children present late, >48 hours from the onset of symptoms and diagnosis was mainly based on clinical symptoms and signs of intestinal obstruction and confirmed with presence of multiple fluid levels on a plain erect abdominal X-ray. All children were then managed by surgery, 11(39.3%) underwent bowel resection. Histopathology reports of those available did not show cause of intussusception. Seven patients died postoperatively, hospital mortality of 25%.

Conclusion: The approximate incidence of intussusception in less than one-year olds is 1:7557 in Dar es Salaam. It is a concern in our environment causing considerable morbidity and mortality due to late presentation and efforts should be made to improve sanitation and hygiene, referring health facilities, socio-economic factors and probably look into ways of preventing the problem occurring. Seasonal variation was seen, most cases (78.6%) presenting in the dry season when there is shortage of water in the city.

East African Medical Journal Vol.81(9) 2004: 439-442

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0012-835X