Background/purpose: To better define the indications for peritoneal drainage (PD) in premature babies with intestinal perforation, the authors reviewed their experience with this procedure in a tertiary neonatal intensive care setting.
Methods: The charts of all neonates who underwent PD as initial treatment for intestinal perforation between 1996 and 1999 were reviewed. Those patients with pneumatosis intestinalis on abdominal radiograph had perforated necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) diagnosed; whereas, those infants with no pneumatosis had isolated intestinal perforation diagnosed. The clinical characteristics and outcomes of these 2 groups were compared.
Results: Twenty-one premature neonates had primary PD between 1996 and 1999, 10 for isolated intestinal perforation and 11 for perforated NEC. Patients with isolated intestinal perforation had lower birth weights (708 v 949 g; P < .05), were less likely to have started feedings (30% v 91%, P < .05), and the perforation developed at an earlier age (10.6 v 28.0 d, P < .05) compared with the patients who had perforated NEC. Only 2 of 10 infants with isolated perforation required subsequent laparotomy (at 10 weeks for stricture and 12 weeks for a persistent fistula). For these patients, the long-term survival rate was 90%. In contrast, 8 of 11 infants with perforated NEC required laparotomy, and although the 30-day survival rate was 64%, the long-term survival rate was only 27%.
Conclusions: Peritoneal drainage provides successful and definitive treatment for most premature babies with isolated intestinal perforation. For neonates with perforation caused by NEC, peritoneal drainage may provide temporary stabilization, but most of these infants require subsequent laparotomy, and few survive.