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J Pediatr Surg. 1988 Jun;23(6):562-6.

Post-necrotizing enterocolitis strictures presenting with sepsis or perforation: risk of clinical observation.

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Department of Surgery, Stanford University Medical Center, CA 94305.


Intestinal stenosis or stricture occurs in approximately one third of medically treated infants surviving the acute phase of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Identification of these lesions by the use of routine contrast enemas has been advocated as a means of decreasing potential morbidity from delayed diagnosis. However, the significant incidence of spontaneous resolution and reluctance to submit asymptomatic infants to contrast enema have led recent researchers to reserve these studies for patients developing symptoms of obstruction during a period of close observation. From July 1984 to July 1986, symptomatic strictures developed in five infants (15%) responding to medical management at our institution. Contrast enemas were not routinely performed and four (80%) of these patients presented with life-threatening sepsis or perforation associated with intestinal obstruction. Two infants developed complete colonic obstruction 4 and 6 weeks after discharge from the Intensive Care Nursery, having initially tolerated oral feedings. Both infants were critically ill due to perforation or sepsis and underwent emergency colostomy at community hospitals. Two other infants developed abdominal distension with sepsis and cardiopulmonary decompensation while remaining hospitalized for prematurity and pulmonary insufficiency. These patients became symptomatic 5 and 7 weeks after cautious refeeding while closely monitored in the Intensive Care Nursery. The occurrence of such life-threatening complications suggests that clinical observation alone is not adequate in the management of many of these infants. Contrast enemas should be performed to identify those patients at risk of such potential morbidity or mortality, especially those infants not residing near pediatric surgical facilities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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