Does the initial surgery for necrotizing enterocolitis matter? Comparative outcomes for laparotomy vs. peritoneal drain as initial surgery for necrotizing enterocolitis in infants <1000 g birth weight

ICON - CHNC Necrotizing Enterocolitis Focus Group Committee

Yanowitz TD, Sullivan KM, Piazza AJ, Brozanski B, Zaniletti I, Sharma J, DiGeronimo R, Nayak SP, Wadhawan R, Reber KM, Murthy K; CHND Surgical NEC Focus Group.

J Pediatr Surg. 2019 Apr;54(4):712-717. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2018.12.010. Epub 2019 Jan 19.PMID: 30765157


Quantify short-term outcomes associated with initial surgery [laparotomy (LAP) vs. peritoneal drain (PD)] for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in extremely-low-birth-weight (ELBW) infants.


Using the Children’s Hospitals Neonatal Database, we identified ELBW infants <32 weeks’ gestation with surgical NEC (sNEC). Unadjusted and multivariable regression analyses were used to estimate the associations between LAP (or PD) and death/short bowel syndrome (SBS) and length of stay (LOS).


LAP was the more common initial procedure for sNEC (n = 359/528, 68%). Infants receiving LAP were older and heavier. Initial procedure was unrelated to death/SBS in both bivariate (LAP: 43% vs PD: 46%, p = 0.573) and multivariable analyses (OR = 0.89, 95% CI = 0.57, 1.38, p = 0.6). LAP was inversely related to mortality (29% vs. 41%, p < 0.007) in bivariate analysis, but not significant in multivariable analysis accounting for markers of preoperative illness severity. However, the association between LAP and SBS (14% vs. 5%, p = 0.012) remained significant in multivariable analyses (adjusted OR = 2.25, p = 0.039). LOS among survivors was unrelated to the first surgical procedure in multivariable analysis.


ELBW infants who undergo LAP as the initial operative procedure for sNEC may be at higher risk for SBS without a clear in-hospital survival advantage or shorter hospitalization.