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Neurodevelopmental outcomes of neonates with medically and surgically treated necrotizing enterocolitis
  1. Clare M Rees,
  2. Agostino Pierro,
  3. Simon Eaton
  1. Department of Paediatric Surgery, Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Simon Eaton
    Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Surgery and Metabolic Biochemistry, Department of Surgery, Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital, 30 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1EH, UK;s.eaton{at}


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.

  • ELBW, extremely low birth weight (⩽1000 g)
  • MDI, mental developmental impairment
  • NDI, neurodevelopmental impairment
  • NEC, necrotizing enterocolitis
  • PDI, psychomotor developmental impairment
  • VLBW, very low birth weight (⩽1500 g)

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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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