Purpose: A retrospective, 12-year review of neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis was undertaken at a county hospital, with emphasis on presentation signs and symptoms.
Methods: Eight-two patients with presence of intramural air were included in the study. The following signs and symptoms were studied: evidence of respiratory distress, use of umbilical catheters, white blood cell count and temperature at presentation, time interval from birth to diagnosis and time interval from diagnosis to operative intervention, presence of intramural air, air in biliary tree or free air, changes in abdominal girth, and presence of occult or gross blood in stools. Comparison was done among infants who had surgical or medical treatment, premature and full-term infants, and infants who had neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis less than or more than 20 days after birth.
Results: Eleven patients had a fatal outcome, with an overall survival of 87 percent. Sixty-four patients were treated medically and 18 had operative treatment. Mortality of the surgically treated group was 44 percent. Neonates who had surgical intervention had a left shift of the white blood cell count more commonly present, and all had documented abdominal distention. There were 62 premature and 20 full-term neonates in the group. Full-term neonates developed neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis earlier after birth (5.3 days compared with 15.3 days in the premature neonate group). Full-term neonates had a better prognosis in our series. Presentation of symptoms more than 20 days after birth did not change outcome.
Conclusion: Our results reflect the experience of a community-based hospital. Clinical acumen remains the cornerstone of diagnosis and management.