Sonographic and radiographic imaging features of the neonate with necrotizing enterocolitis: correlating findings with outcomes
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BACKGROUND: Abdominal radiography is the reference standard in imaging neonates with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC); however, ultrasound of the abdomen including bowel may be of value in this setting. OBJECTIVE: To correlate sonographic and radiographic findings with patient outcomes in NEC. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We reviewed sonographic and radiographic exams, as well as clinical, pathological and laboratory records. Ultrasound images were reviewed for free intraperitoneal gas, peritoneal fluid, pneumatosis intestinalis, portal gas, bowel vascularity, bowel wall thickness and echogenicity, peristalsis and the presence of dilated bowel with anechoic contents. Contemporaneously acquired radiographs were reviewed for intraperitoneal gas, pneumatosis intestinalis, portal gas, the sentinel loop sign and gas pattern. Patients were categorized into two groups based on clinical outcome. RESULTS: Forty-four neonates receiving 55 sonograms were included. Focal fluid collections, echogenic free fluid, increased bowel wall echogenicity and increased bowel wall thickness were statistically significant in predicting an unfavorable outcome. Other features approached significance in predicting poor outcomes: free peritoneal gas, pneumatosis intestinalis, aperistalsis, bowel wall thinning and absent bowel perfusion. Anechoic free peritoneal fluid predicted a good outcome. The sentinel loop sign on radiographs predicted an unfavorable outcome. CONCLUSIONS: Abdominal sonography and radiography in patients with NEC can help prognosticate the outcome.