Diagnostic performance of the upper gastrointestinal series in the evaluation of children with clinically suspected malrotation

Pediatr Radiol. 2008 May;38(5):518-28. doi: 10.1007/s00247-008-0762-8. Epub 2008 Feb 12.


Background: Malrotation is a congenital disorder of abnormal intestinal rotation and fixation that predisposes infants to potentially life-threatening midgut volvulus. Upper gastrointestinal tract (UGI) examination is sometimes equivocal and can lead to inaccurate diagnosis.

Objective: To determine the diagnostic performance of UGI examinations in children who subsequently underwent a Ladd procedure for suspected malrotation or volvulus.

Materials and methods: We reviewed all children up to 21 years old who had undergone both a UGI examination and a Ladd procedure for possible malrotation across 9 years. Children were excluded if they had not undergone either a UGI examination or a Ladd procedure and if congenital abdominal wall defects were present.

Results: Of 229 patients identified, 166 (59% male, median age 67 days) were included. Excluded were 47 without a UGI series, 12 with omphalocele or gastroschisis, 1 without verifiable operative data, 1 who had not undergone a Ladd procedure, and 2 older than 21 years. Of the 166 patients, 40% were neonates and 73% were <12 months old, and 31% presented with bilious vomiting and 15% with abdominal distention. Of 163 patients with surgically verified malrotation, 156 had a positive UGI examination, a sensitivity of 96%. There were two patients with a false-positive UGI examination and seven with false-negative examination. Jejunal position was normal in six of the seven with a false-negative examination and abnormal in the two with a false-positive examination. Of 38 patients with surgically verified volvulus, 30 showed volvulus on the UGI series. Five required bowel resection and three died.

Conclusion: Jejunal position can lead to inaccurate UGI series interpretation. Meticulous technique and periodic assessment of performance will help more accurately diagnose difficult or equivocal cases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Barium Compounds
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • False Negative Reactions
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Volvulus / congenital
  • Intestinal Volvulus / diagnosis*
  • Intestinal Volvulus / surgery
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Radiography
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Upper Gastrointestinal Tract / diagnostic imaging*


  • Barium Compounds