International survey on the management of necrotizing enterocolitis

Eur J Pediatr Surg. 2015 Feb;25(1):27-33. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1387942. Epub 2014 Oct 26.


Aim: The aim of this study is to define patterns in the management of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

Methods: A total of 80 delegates (81% senior surgeons) from 29 (20 European) countries completed a survey at the European Pediatric Surgeons' Association 2013 annual meeting.

Results: Overall, 59% surgeons work in centers where>10 cases of NEC are treated per year.

Diagnosis: 76% surgeons request both anteroposterior and lateral abdominal X-rays, which are performed at regular intervals by 66%; 50% surgeons also request Doppler ultrasonography; most frequently used biochemical markers are platelets (99% of surgeons), C-reactive protein (90%), and white cell count (83%). Laparoscopy is performed for diagnosis and/or treatment of NEC by only 8% surgeons. Overall, 43% surgeons reported being able to diagnose focal intestinal perforation preoperatively. Medical NEC: medical NEC is managed by surgical and neonatal teams together in most centers (84%). Most surgeons (67%) use a combination of two (51%) or three (48%) antibiotics for more than 7 days, and keep patients nil by mouth for 7 (41%) or 10 (49%) days. Surgical NEC: In extremely low-birth-weight infants (< 1,000 g) with intestinal perforation, 27% surgeons opt for primary peritoneal drainage (PPD) as definitive treatment. Overall, 67% think that peritoneal drainage is important for stabilization and transport. At laparotomy, treatments vary according to NEC severity. About 75% surgeons always close the abdomen, and 29% leave a patch to prevent compartment syndrome.

Postoperative management: Infants are kept nil by mouth for 5 to 7 days by 46% surgeons, more than 7 days by 42%, and less than 5 days by 12% surgeons. Most surgeons (77%) restart infants on breast milk, 11.5% on aminoacid-based formulas, and 11.5% on hydrolyzed formulas. Most surgeons (92%) follow-up NEC patients after discharge, up to 5 years of life (56%) and 65% surgeons organize a neurodevelopmental follow-up.

Conclusions: Many aspects of NEC management are lacking consensus and surgeons differ especially over surgical treatment of complex cases and postoperative management. Prospective multi-center studies are needed to guide an evidence-based management of NEC.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Drainage / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / diagnosis
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / drug therapy
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / surgery
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / therapy*
  • Europe
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / diagnosis
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / drug therapy
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / surgery
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / therapy*
  • Laparotomy / statistics & numerical data
  • Postoperative Care / methods
  • Postoperative Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents