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Pediatr Surg Int. 2002 Sep;18(5-6):413-6. Epub 2002 Jun 19.

Major complications of omphalitis in neonates and infants.

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Paediatric Surgery Unit, Department of Surgery, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria, Nigeria.


Omphalitis is a common problem in developing countries, and a wide range of complications requiring surgery may occur. We conducted a retrospective review of 19 neonates and infants treated for major complications of omphalitis: 13 boys and 6 girls aged 5-75 days (median 33 days). Five (26%) patients presented with spontaneous evisceration of small bowel through the umbilical cicatrix, resulting in intestinal gangrene in 1. Necrotizing fasciitis (NF) occurred in 5 (26%) patients involving mainly the scrotum, and in 2 involving the penis as well. Three (16%) patients had peritonitis, resulting in intra-abdominal abscesses in 2. Three (16%) had superficial abscesses, 2 (11%) had hepatic abscesses resulting in extensive destruction of the left lobe in 1, and 1 (5%) developed an adhesive intestinal obstruction. Although Staphylococcus aureus was the most commonly cultured organism, many cultures were sterile due to the use of antibiotics before presentation. Treatments consisted of repair of the umbilical cicatrix for evisceration (and intestinal resection for gangrene), radical debridement for NF, drainage and lavage for peritonitis, drainage of superficial abscesses, and lysis of adhesions. Broad-spectrum antibiotics were also given. No patient developed tetanus. One patient died from peritonitis. There was no death from NF. As serious complications may result from omphalitis in neonates and infants, with high morbidity and possible mortality, early recognition and prompt treatment are necessary for a good outcome.

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