Prenatal ultrasonographic detection of gastrointestinal obstruction: results from 18 European congenital anomaly registries

Prenat Diagn. 2002 Jul;22(7):616-23. doi: 10.1002/pd.341.


Objectives: We evaluated the prenatal detection of gastrointestinal obstruction (GIO, including atresia, stenosis, absence or fistula) by routine ultrasonographic examination in an unselected population all over Europe.

Methods: Data from 18 congenital malformation registries in 11 European countries were analysed. These multisource registries used the same methodology. All fetuses/neonates with GIO confirmed within 1 week after birth who had prenatal sonography and were born during the study period (1 July 1996 to 31 December 1998) were included.

Results: There were 670 793 births in the area covered and 349 fetuses/neonates had GIO. The prenatal detection rate of GIO was 34%; of these 40% were detected < or = 24 weeks of gestation (WG). A total of 31% (60/192) of the isolated GIO were detected prenatally, as were 38% (59/157) of the associated GIO (p=0.26). The detection rate was 25% for esophageal obstruction (31/122), 52% for duodenal obstruction (33/64), 40% for small intestine obstruction (27/68) and 29% for large intestine obstruction (28/95) (p=0.002). The detection rate was higher in countries with a policy of routine obstetric ultrasound. Fifteen percent of pregnancies were terminated (51/349). Eleven of these had chromosomal anomalies, 31 multiple malformations, eight non-chromosomal recognized syndromes, and one isolated GIO. The participating registries reflect the various national policies for termination of pregnancy (TOP), but TOPs after 24 WG (11/51) do not appear to be performed more frequently in countries with a liberal TOP policy.

Conclusion: This European study shows that the detection rate of GIO depends on the screening policy and on the sonographic detectability of GIO subgroups.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Congenital Abnormalities
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine
  • Digestive System Abnormalities* / diagnostic imaging*
  • Digestive System Abnormalities* / epidemiology
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Obstruction / diagnostic imaging*
  • Intestinal Obstruction / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Pregnancy
  • Registries
  • Sex Factors
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal*