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3 min read

Rotavirus Vaccine and Intussusception

Rotavirus is a viral infection of the intestines that is most commonly found in children under age five that can potentially result in hospitalization. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prior to the current rotavirus vaccine’s development in the mid-2000s, nearly all children in the United States were infected with rotavirus prior to age five, resulting in over 200,000 emergency room visits, more than 55,000 hospitalizations, and over 20 deaths. Since the vaccine’s introduction, however, those numbers have fallen dramatically. All major medical organizations recommend infants receive the rotavirus vaccine beginning at two months old. There is, however, a rare but potentially serious side effect of the rotavirus vaccine: intussusception.

Intussusception is a possible side effect of the rotavirus vaccine, typically occurring within a week of vaccination. Intussusception is a potentially life-threatening illness that occurs when a portion of the intestines folds into itself, with one segment folding into another segment. This folding causes a blockage, preventing food from moving through the intestines. This blockage can lead to severe intestinal damage, intestinal infection, and bleeding. If treatment is not received early enough, intussusception can cause severe injury or death. Intussusception is most commonly found in infants and young children, with sixty percent of patients who develop the illness being between two months and one year. 

 

What are the symptoms of intussusception? 

The symptoms of intussusception can vary, but there are certain symptoms that are typically found in infants. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the most common symptom of intussusception is a sudden onset of pain that is typically accompanied by straining, drawing up the knees, irritability, and crying.

In addition to these common symptoms, infants with intussusception also may experience vomiting, bloody “jelly-like” stool, and present a mass in their abdomen. All symptoms tend to come and go in waves, with intervals where a child is in pain, only to seemingly recover and then experience pain again. If you suspect your child is suffering from intussusception, it is crucial that you seek immediate medical attention. Intussusception is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment to avoid permanent injury or death.

 

How common is intussusception?

Intussusception following a rotavirus vaccine is very rare. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, only one dose out of every 100,000 results in a reported case of intussusception. Because of the very mild risk, doctors still highly recommend that infants receive the rotavirus vaccine. A 2017 study in the German medical magazine Deutsches Ärzteblatt International showed that while the rotavirus vaccine does come with a mild increase in risk of developing intussusception, the researchers concluded that the benefits of receiving the rotavirus vaccination far outweighed the increased risk of intussusception.

The exact cause of intussusception following the rotavirus vaccine is poorly understood. In fact, the cause of intussusception unrelated to the rotavirus vaccine is also poorly understood. Only 10% of pediatric cases of intussusception have an identifiable cause. 

 

How is intussusception diagnosed and treated?

When intussusception is suspected, there are multiple ways for a physician to diagnose. The most common method is through a physical examination, as intussusception can cause lumps or masses that are externally perceptible. In some cases, an ultrasound or an X-ray may be required to properly diagnose. 

When caught early, intussusception is a very treatable illness. Treatment typically involves an air or fluid enema to push the affected section of intestine back into a normal position. However, when this treatment is ineffective or if there are signs of more severe intestinal damage, surgery is sometimes required. According to the CDC, in roughly one third of intussusception cases in infants, surgery is required to unfold the affected section of intestine. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to remove the affection section entirely.

Recovering from intussusception

Intussusception patients have a very good outlook provided that treatment is received early enough. The majority of patients are able to make a full recovery with no long-term complications. For patients who received non-surgical intervention, recovery can take place within several hours. Recovery may be accompanied by a mild fever that can be treated with medication. Patients are able to go home as soon as they begin feeling better. For patients who require surgery, recovery takes a bit longer. Gauze pads will be removed two days after surgery, and once discharged, vigorous physical activity is prohibited until after a follow up appointment two to three weeks after surgery. 

 

Getting compensation for intussusception following rotavirus vaccine

Your child experiencing intussusception following a rotavirus vaccine is a stressful and frightening thing. But it is important to know that you and your child are not alone in this difficult time. At My Vaccine Lawyer, we have an experienced team of vaccine injury lawyers who are committed to offering you the resources you need to get justice for your child. 

If you believe that your child has suffered from intussusception due to a rotavirus vaccine, contact My Vaccine Lawyer. Our team of attorneys is prepared to help you understand your legal options and advocate for your rights. Contact My Vaccine Lawyer to take the first step towards the justice and compensation your child deserves.

 

Meet the Author

Leigh Finfer - Associate Attorney

Leigh A. Finfer is a vaccine and personal injury attorney at Muller Brazil and My Vaccine Lawyer. Mrs. Finfer has been with the firm since June 2018 and her practice includes representing vaccine injury victims, personal injury victims, and those who suffer injuries as a result of unsafe drugs and medical devices.

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