In a retrospective study, 110 patients episodes with intussusception presenting to a paediatric accident and emergency (A&E) department were reviewed, with particular attention being paid to presenting symptoms, time to diagnosis, radiological investigation, management and outcome. Between 1983 and 1993 100 patients presented to this department with 110 episodes of intussusception. Delay in diagnosis of greater than 12 h from initial medical contact was associated with increased morbidity. Associated factors in delayed diagnosis were departure from the classical symptoms (pain, vomiting and blood per rectum) and the presence of diarrhoea. General practitioner (GP) referral was to the medical team (rather than the surgical team) in around 50% of cases. Irrespective of the specialty of the first hospital doctor to see the patient only 42% were diagnosed correctly within 3 h of admission. In this population diarrhoea is a common symptom of intussusception and should alert the clinician rather than reassure. Because of its many presentations and relative rarity, intussusception remains a difficult condition to diagnose.
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