Meconium peritonitis in utero: prenatal sonographic findings and clinical implications

J Chin Med Assoc. 2003 Jun;66(6):355-9.


Background: Prenatal ultrasound scans reveal variable features of fetal meconium peritonitis. For better understanding of the natural history and postnatal prognosis of meconium peritonitis, we clarified the significance of ultrasound findings in the outcomes of fetuses with meconium peritonitis.

Methods: Between 1991 and 2001, fetuses who underwent evaluation for meconium peritonitis were retrospectively analyzed. The diagnosis was made by intra-abdominal calcifications, meconium pseudocyst, or meconium ascites, which were postnatally confirmed by the operative findings and/or abdominal plain films. According to the final ultrasound findings before labor, patients were classified into 3 groups: type I, large meconium ascites; type II, a large pseudocyst; type III, intra-abdominal calcifications, small meconium ascites and/or a shrinking pseudocyst.

Results: Nineteen fetuses (6 boys and 13 girls) were collected. Mean gestational age at diagnosis was 29.1 +/- 5.3 weeks and mean follow-up before delivery was 7.5 +/- 6.2 weeks. Mean gestational age at birth was 36.8 +/- 6.2 weeks. Six fetuses (31.5%) were delivered before 37 weeks of gestation. Type I was found in 5 (26.3%), type II in 3 (15.8%), and type III in 11 (57.9%). Intra-abdominal calcifications were identified in 15 cases (78.9%), polyhydramnios in 4 (21.1%), and oligohydramnios in 3 (15.8%). Cardiopulmonary resuscitation at birth was required in 2 cases (type I). Twelve cases (63.2 %) were spontaneous perforations. Of 7 other cases (36.8%) studied, 6 had intestinal atresia and 1 had associated defects resulting in bowel perforation. Postnatal follow-up revealed all but 2 (died of sepsis and prematurity, respectively) doing well.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that detailed fetal ultrasound scans are crucial for providing a prenatal diagnosis and proper perinatal management of meconium peritonitis. From the viewpoints of our study, proper prenatal counseling and risk evaluation should be offered to the parents of the fetuses with meconium peritonitis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meconium*
  • Peritonitis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pregnancy
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal*