Necrotizing enterocolitis: incidence, operative care, and outcome

J Pediatr Surg. 1986 Dec;21(12):1149-54. doi: 10.1016/0022-3468(86)90030-8.


At Jefferson Davis Hospital, the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) was three per 1,000 live births, and 30 per 1,000 low birth weight births. The occurrence of NEC was sporadic and no epidemics occurred. NEC occurred most frequently in infants weighing between 750 and 1,500 g, and the smaller infant with NEC was more likely to require surgical intervention. As the survival of small birth weight infants improved over the 4 years of the study, the patient population developing NEC became smaller. The age at operation also increased in the period between 1982 and 1984. Those infants who developed NEC after 30 days of age typically had more extensive disease and a less favorable prognosis. In this series, 31% of infants with acute NEC required surgical intervention. An additional 11% of those infants treated nonoperatively eventually required surgical intervention for late sequelae of NEC. The overall survival of infants with NEC was 75%. While the survival of all infants operated for NEC was 68%, the survival for those with the acute syndrome was 63% and those operated on for late sequelae was 87%. Primary anastomosis in selected patients did not adversely affect mortality and simplified the postoperative care of these infants with severe complications. Indeed, enterostomy closure in an infant who had previously had NEC was an extensive procedure that carried significant risk. Our results indicated that the trained pediatric surgeon could predict at the operating table which infants could safely undergo resection and anastomosis and that, with experience, the percent undergoing primary anastomosis increased to approximately 50%.

MeSH terms

  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / epidemiology*
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / mortality
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / surgery
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Prognosis
  • Texas