Research Article

Childhood deaths from intussusception in England and Wales, 1984-9.

BMJ 1992; 304 doi: (Published 21 March 1992) Cite this as: BMJ 1992;304:737
  1. M. D. Stringer,
  2. G. Pledger,
  3. D. P. Drake
  1. Hospitals for Sick Children, London.


    OBJECTIVE--To assess the incidence of potentially avoidable factors contributing to death of children with intussusception. DESIGN--Review of children who died with intussusception in England and Wales between 1984 and 1989 from data of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, case notes, coroners' records, and necropsy reports. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Unambiguous objective criteria such as failure to diagnose intussusception within 24 hours of admission. RESULTS--33 children died of acute intussusception in England and Wales between 1984 and 1989 compared with 67 in the previous six years. Their median age was 7 months (range 2 months to 12 years), and two thirds were boys. Half of the deaths occurred at home or soon after arrival at hospital but 15 patients had surgery. Potentially avoidable factors contributing to death were identified in 20 (61%) children, all but three of whom had ileocolic intussusception. These factors were excessive delay in diagnosis, inadequate intravenous fluid and antibiotic therapy, delay in recognising recurrent or residual intussusception after hydrostatic reduction, and surgical complications. Of the 13 patients in whom no avoidable factors were identified, there were nine of 11 children with isolated small bowel intussusception, who tended to have atypical presentations. CONCLUSION--Although the mortality from intussusception has declined, there remains ample opportunity for improved management.