Changing presentation and management of neutropenic enterocolitis

Howard K. Song, Daniel Kreisel, Robert Canter, Alexander S. Krupnick, Edward A. Stadtmauer, Gordon Buzby

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Objective: To characterize the current clinical presentation and management of neutropenic enterocolitis. Design: Retrospective review of records of oncology unit patients requiring general surgical consultation for abdominal complaints in a 1-year period. Setting: Oncology unit of a tertiary care, university teaching hospital. Patients and Interventions: Fourteen patients diagnosed as having neutropenic enterocolitis were managed conservatively with operation reserved for failure of conservative therapy. Main Outcome Measures: Clinical data from patients at the time of presentation and during treatment for neutropenic enterocolitis. Results: All 14 patients diagnosed as having neutropenic enterocolitis were receiving chemotherapy for solid tumors or leukemias. Seven patients were undergoing stem cell or autologous bone marrow transplantation. Presenting symptoms and physical examination findings were nonspecific. All patients except one had neutropenia at the time of diagnosis. Computed tomographic scans of the abdomen were the most useful confirmatory study for the diagnosis of neutropenic enterocolitis. All patients except one had resolution of neutropenic enterocolitis with conservative therapy. One patient whose course of conservative-management failed had protracted neutropenia and required operation for resection of bowel with full-thickness necrosis. Conclusions: Neutropenic enterocolitis has evolved from a complication of patients with leukemia to a disease of patients receiving high-dose chemotherapy for many malignancies, solid as well as hematologic. Diagnosis of neutropenic enterocolitis continues to be a challenge, as patients typically present with nonspecific gastrointestinal tract symptoms. Neutropenia and computed tomographic scan findings are useful adjuncts in diagnosing neutropenic enterocolitis. Timely conservative treatment frequently allows resolution of neutropenic enterocolitis without operation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)979-982
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of Surgery
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1998


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