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J Pediatr Surg. 2007 Apr;42(4):714-6.

Bilious vomiting in the newborn: how often is further investigation undertaken?

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Department of Paediatric Surgery, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, NHS Greater Glasgow, G3 8SJ Glasgow, United Kingdom.



Pediatric surgeons consider bile vomiting in the neonate a potential surgical emergency. The reported rate of surgical intervention is 30% to 40%, but as most neonates are born outwith pediatric surgical centers, referral of these babies is at the neonatologists' discretion. The aim of this study was to determine the referral policy of neonatologists in the West of Scotland for a neonate with bile vomiting.


Questionnaires were sent to all neonatologists in the West of Scotland to determine the management plan for a neonate with a single bile vomit or repeated bile vomits. Respondents were asked to indicate whether they would advocate postnatal ward observation, admission to the special care baby unit, abdominal x-ray, or upper gastrointestinal contrast study, or refer to pediatric surgeons. Respondents were asked to prioritize these options numerically.


A return rate of 81% was achieved. Most neonatologists (80%) would admit a neonate with a single bile vomit to the special care baby unit, but more than 50% did not consider an upper gastrointestinal contrast study appropriate. One third felt that pediatric surgical referral is not appropriate for a single bile vomit. In a neonate with persistent bile vomiting, pediatric surgical referral was considered the highest priority.


Neonatologists use a policy of observation for neonates with a single bile vomit. Those neonates with no further bile vomiting are unlikely to be referred. Pediatric surgeons are not referred a significant proportion of neonates that vomit bile.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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