Use of the barium enema in the diagnosis of necrotizing enterocolitis
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality in infants. The diagnosis relies heavily upon radiographic and clinical features. Failure to accurately diagnose NEC is associated with a risk of complications and death, however overdiagnosis also causes both morbidity and mortality as well as excessive medical costs. This report documents the use of barium enema to evaluate suspected clinical or radiographic NEC in 31 premature infants with ambiguous clinical and radiographic signs. The enema was normal in 26 infants and no treatment for NEC was given. Only one of these infants developed signs of NEC subsequent to the examination. Five infants had radiographic evidence of colitis including small ulcerations, spasm, intramural extravasation of barium and mucosal irregularity. Two of the five positive cases are pathologically documented. The barium enema can represent a significant improvement in the specificity of the diagnosis of NEC. Its greatest value is in the exclusion of NEC in ambiguous cases.
KeywordsPublic Health Barium Premature Infant Medical Cost Positive Case
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