Long-term outcome of surgically managed necrotizing enterocolitis in a developing country

Pediatr Surg Int. 2010 Apr;26(4):355-60. doi: 10.1007/s00383-010-2583-8. Epub 2010 Mar 4.


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious condition with a high morbidity and mortality commonly affecting premature babies. Data for the impact of the long-term disease burden in developing countries are limited although poor long-term outcome of surgically managed patients has been shown in terms of increased risk of neurodevelopmental delay, increased infectious disease burden and abnormal neurological outcomes in the developed world.

Purpose: To evaluate the long-term outcome of a pre-human immunodeficiency virus pandemic NEC cohort to characterize common risk factors and outcome in a developing world setting.

Methods: A retrospective review of medical records was carried out on a cohort of 128 premature neonates with surgical NEC (1992-1995). Morbidity, mortality and long-term outcome were evaluated.

Results: Data for 119 of 128 sequentially managed neonates with surgically treated NEC was available. Mean gestational age was 32 weeks and average birth weight was 1,413 g. Early (30-day postoperative) survival was 69% (n = 82) overall and 71% in the <1,500 g birth weight group (n = 68; 53%). Overwhelming sepsis (n = 16) or pan-intestinal necrosis (n = 18) accounted for most of the early deaths. Late deaths (>30 days postoperatively, n = 22) resulted from short bowel syndrome (5), sepsis (9), intraventricular hemorrhage (1) and undetermined causes (7). On follow-up (mean follow-up 39 months, 30 for >2 years), long-term mortality increased to 50%. Late surgical complications included late colonic strictures (9), incisional hernias (2) and adhesive bowel obstruction (3). Fifteen patients had short bowel syndrome, of which 10 (66%) survived. Of the long-term survivors, 8 (20%) had severe neurological deficits and 20 (49%) had significant neurodevelopmental delay. Neurological deficits included severe auditory impairment [5 (12%)] and visual impairment [4 (10%)]. Recurrent infections and gastrointestinal tract complaints requiring hospital admission occurred in 16 (39%) of survivors.

Conclusion: Necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants impacts morbidity and mortality considerably. A number do well in a developing country, but septic complications may be ongoing and recurrent. The high risk of neurodevelopmental and other problems continue beyond the neonatal period and patients should be "flagged" on for careful follow-up.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / epidemiology
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / pathology
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Male
  • Necrosis / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sepsis / epidemiology
  • Short Bowel Syndrome / epidemiology
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome