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J Pediatr Surg. 2016 Aug;51(8):1255-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2015.12.015. Epub 2016 Jan 8.

The role of ischemia in necrotizing enterocolitis.

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Department of Pediatric Surgery, KK Women's & Children's Hospital, Singapore.
Department of Pathology, KK Women's & Children's Hospital, Singapore.
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore.
Centre for Quantitative Medicine, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore.
Division of General and Thoracic Surgery, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto.
Department of Pediatric Surgery, KK Women's & Children's Hospital, Singapore. Electronic address:



The role of ischemia in the pathogenesis of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) remains unclear. We used immunohistochemical markers of hypoxia to identify presence/absence of ischemia in NEC and spontaneous intestinal perforation (SIP) with clinical correlation.


Immunohistochemical staining was performed on 24 NEC and 13 SIP intestinal resection specimens using 2 hypoxia markers, hypoxia inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) and glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1) and inflammatory markers, leukocyte common antigen (LCA) and myeloperoxidase. Ischemic score (0-6) from the sum of the HIF-1α and GLUT1 staining intensity grades was devised (positive ≥3). Inflammation was graded from the sum of LCA and myeloperoxidase grading. Relevant clinical information was obtained from hospital case records.


Fourteen NEC specimens had positive ischemic score (4.6±1.2). The remaining 10 NEC (ischemic score 0.7±0.8) and all 13 SIP samples (ischemic score 0.5±0.5) were ischemic-negative. The ischemic-positive cases had classic NEC with multiple areas of bowel necrosis; were associated with later onset, enteral feeding and pneumatosis. In contrast, all ischemic-negative NEC were short-segment NEC with perforation. Their clinical profile was similar to the SIP cases with younger gestational age at birth, early onset, association with ibuprofen/indomethacin usage but not with feeding and pneumatosis. Ischemic scores are correlated with inflammation scores in mucosa but not submucosa.


Ischemia as assessed with immunohistochemical markers HIF-1α and GLUT1, has a primary role in pathogenesis of classic NEC only, not in SIP or short-segment NEC with perforation. Better categorization of the different types of NEC can direct appropriate prevention and treatment strategies.


Feeding; Inflammation; Ischemia; Necrotizing enterocolitis; Spontaneous intestinal perforation

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