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Abdominal ultrasound should become part of standard care for early diagnosis and management of necrotising enterocolitis: a narrative review


Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) is a leading cause of death and disability in preterm newborns. Early diagnosis through non-invasive investigations is a crucial strategy that can significantly improve outcomes. Hence, this review gives particular attention to the emerging role of abdominal ultrasound (AUS) in the early diagnosis of NEC, its performance against abdominal radiograph and the benefits of AUS use in daily practice. AUS has been used in the diagnosis and management of NEC for a couple of decades. However, its first-line use has been minimal, despite growing evidence demonstrating AUS can be a critical tool in the early diagnosis and management of NEC. In 2018, the NEC group of the International Neonatal Consortium recommended using AUS to detect pneumatosis and/or portal air in preterm NEC as part of the ‘Two out of three’ model. To facilitate widespread adoption, and future improvement in practice and outcomes, collaboration between neonatologists, surgeons and radiologists is needed to generate standard operating procedures and indications for use for AUS. The pace and scale of the benefit generated by use of AUS can be amplified through use of computer-aided detection and artificial intelligence.

  • necrotising enterocolitis
  • abdominal radiograph
  • abdominal ultrasound
  • differential diagnosis
  • big data
  • artificial intelligence
  • acquired neonatal intestinal disease
  • spontaneous intestinal perfusion
  • real world evidence
  • machiene learning
  • standard operating procedures
  • point of care
  • diagnostics

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