Does abdominal sonography provide additional information over abdominal plain radiography for diagnosis of necrotizing enterocolitis in neonates?

Pediatr Surg Int. 2011 Mar;27(3):321-7. doi: 10.1007/s00383-010-2737-8. Epub 2010 Oct 12.


Purpose: To explore whether addition of abdominal sonography (AUS) to plain radiography is helpful in the management of premature newborns with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

Methods: This study is a prospective analysis of 93 premature neonates with NEC who were followed-up in our neonatal intensive care unit between October 2007 and April 2009.

Results: Patients were classified into two groups; group I with suspected NEC (stage I) (n = 54) and group II with definite NEC (stage ≥II) (n = 39). Pneumatosis intestinalis (PI) (n = 29), free air (n = 9), and portal venous gas (PVG) (n = 1) were observed in group II on plain radiography. In the same group, echoic free fluid (EFF) (n = 9), PVG (n = 6), PI (n = 5), and focal fluid collection (n = 3) were the most prominent sonographic findings. In patients with intestinal perforation, whereas EFF and bowel wall thinning were observed on AUS, free air was not detected on plain radiography as a sign of intestinal perforation.

Conclusion: Our results suggest AUS to be superior to plain radiography on early detection of intestinal perforation by demonstrating PVG and EFF collection. Therefore, it may be life-saving by directing the surgeon to perform surgical intervention in the case of clinical deterioration in the course of NEC.

MeSH terms

  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiography
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Ultrasonography