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Intussusception occurs when a bowel segment invaginates or telescopes into an adjoining portion of bowel; as peristalsis continues, the segment is propelled farther into the bowel, and blood supply is restricted. Tissue ischemia leads to an edematous and friable bowel, causing bleeding and, if the condition is not corrected, tissue necrosis, intestinal gangrene, shock, intestinal perforation, and peritonitis. Intussusception is considered a pediatric emergency because it is one of the most common causes of bowel obstruction in children and can be fatal if it is not treated within 24 hours.

Children with cystic fibrosis, gastroenteritis, polyps, lymphosarcoma, and celiac disease are particularly susceptible. Intussusception is classified according to the portion of the bowel involved. The most common location for intussusception is at or near the ileocecal valve, but intussusception can occur in both the small and the large bowels.

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