Ultrasound for the diagnosis of malrotation and volvulus in children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Arch Dis Child. 2021 Dec;106(12):1171-1178. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2020-321082. Epub 2021 Apr 20.


Context: Despite the advantages of ultrasound (US), upper gastrointestinal contrast series (UGI) remains the first-line diagnostic modality in the diagnosis of midgut malrotation and volvulus in children.

Objective: Evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of US in the diagnosis of malrotation with or without volvulus in children and adolescents aged 0-21 years, compared with the reference standard (diagnosis by surgery, UGI, CT, MRI, and clinical follow-up individually or as a composite).

Data sources: We searched the electronic databases Ovid-MEDLINE, Embase, Scopus, CINAHL, and the Cochrane library in October 2019 and updated on 18 August 2020.

Study selection: Studies evaluating the diagnostic performance of US for diagnosis of midgut malrotation with or without volvulus in children (0-21 years).

Data extraction and synthesis: The data were extracted independently by two authors and a bivariate model was used for synthesis.

Results: Meta-analysis of 17 cohort or cross-sectional studies and 2257 participants estimated a summary sensitivity of 94% (95% CI 89% to 97%) and summary specificity of 100% (95% CI 97% to 100%) (moderate certainty evidence) for the use of US for the diagnosis of malrotation with or without midgut volvulus compared with the reference standard. Subgroup analysis and meta-regression revealed better diagnostic accuracy in malrotation not complicated by volvulus, in the neonatal population and enteric fluid administration before US.

Conclusions: Moderate certainty evidence suggests excellent diagnostic accuracy and coupled with the advantages, a strong case exists for the use of abdominal US as the first-line diagnostic test for suspected midgut malrotation with or without volvulus in children and adolescents.

Keywords: gastroenterology; neonatology.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Digestive System Abnormalities / diagnostic imaging*
  • Digestive System Abnormalities / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Volvulus / diagnosis
  • Intestinal Volvulus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Intestinal Volvulus / surgery
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography / methods*