Objectives: (1) To characterise neurodevelopmental outcome of neonates with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC); (2) to define whether NEC increases risk of neurodevelopmental impairment in very low birth weight neonates; (3) to investigate whether stage of disease or need for surgery increase risk of poor outcome.
Design: A systematic review was performed. Searches identified 182 relevant papers. Ten studies compared extremely low birthweight neonates with NEC to infants of similar age and gestation who did not develop NEC. Data are reported as OR (95% CIs, p values for test for overall effect) and compared by χ2.
Results: 7843 children (821 with NEC) were included in the meta-analysis. Median follow-up was 20 months (range 12 to 156). Overall, 45% of children who had neonatal NEC were neurodevelopmentally impaired. Infants with NEC were significantly more likely than infants of similar age and gestation who did not develop NEC to be neurodevelopmentally impaired (1.6 (1.3 to 2.0), p = 0.0001) including a higher risk of cerebral palsy (1.5 (1.2 to 2.0), p = 0.001), visual (2.3 (1.0 to 5.1), p = 0.04), cognitive (1.7 (1.4 to 2.2), p<0.0001) and psychomotor impairment (1.7 (1.3 to 2.2), p<0.0001). The odds ratio of neurodevelopmental impairment was also 2.3 times higher in neonates with Bell’s stage III disease or requiring surgery ((1.5 to 3.6), p = 0.0001).
Conclusions: NEC is associated with significantly worse neurodevelopmental outcome than prematurity alone. Presence of advanced NEC and need for surgery increase the risk of neurological impairment.
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Published Online First 19 September 2006
Funding: The Stanley Thomas Johnson foundation, Berne, Switzerland.
Competing interests: None.
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