Ultrasound imaging as the first line of investigation to diagnose intestinal malrotation in children: Safety and efficacy

J Pediatr Surg. 2021 Dec;56(12):2224-2228. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2021.04.009. Epub 2021 Apr 20.


Background: Upper gastrointestinal contrast study is considered the gold standard investigation to diagnose intestinal malrotation and midgut volvulus which is potentially devastating condition. Ultrasound imaging is an alternative but has been considered unreliable due to significant false negative results. At our institution we have been using ultrasound imaging as the first line investigation to diagnose malrotation since 2008 with a preliminary study of 139 patients published in 2014. This is an ongoing audit of a further much larger cohort of patients to determine the efficacy and safety of ultrasound imaging in the diagnosis of intestinal malrotation.

Materials and methods: Following ethics approval, a retrospective analysis of a prospectively collected patient database undergoing ultrasound scans to exclude malrotation at our centre was performed from 2012 to 2019.

Results: 539 patients underwent ultrasound to assess for malrotation. The mean age of presentation was 365 days (median 30 days, mode 1 day). Malrotation was diagnosed in 17 with 5 having volvulus, with findings confirmed at surgery. 12 had equivocal findings and subsequent contrast studies ruled out malrotation. The remaining 510 patients with no evidence of malrotation were managed conservatively.

Conclusion: We have shown ultrasound to be a safe and effective tool to assess intestinal malrotation without exposure to ionizing radiation.

Level of evidence: Level IV.

Keywords: Children; Intestinal malrotation; Ultrasound.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Volvulus* / diagnostic imaging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography
  • Upper Gastrointestinal Tract* / diagnostic imaging