Treatment of necrotizing enterocolitis: An American pediatric surgical association outcomes and clinical trials committee systematic review

Cynthia D. Downard, Elizabeth Renaud, Shawn D. St. Peter, Fizan Abdullah, Saleem Islam, Jacqueline M. Saito, Martin L. Blakely, Eunice Y. Huang, Marjorie J. Arca, Laura Cassidy, Gudrun Aspelund

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Objective: The optimal treatment of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a common challenge for pediatric surgeons. Although many studies have evaluated prevention and medical therapy for NEC, few guidelines for surgical care exist. The aim of this systematic review is to review and evaluate the currently available evidence for the surgical care of patients with NEC. Methods: Data were compiled from a search of PubMed, OVID, the Cochrane Library database, and Web of Science from January 1985 until December 2011. Publications were screened, and their references were hand-searched to identify additional studies. was also searched to identify ongoing or unpublished trials. The American Pediatric Surgical Association Outcomes and Clinical Trials Committee proposed six questions deemed pertinent to the surgical treatment of NEC. Recent Cochrane Reviews examined three of these topics; a literature review was performed to address the additional three specific questions. Results: The Cochrane Reviews support the use of prophylactic probiotics in preterm infants less than 2500 grams to reduce the incidence of NEC, as well as the use of human breast milk rather than formula when possible. There is no clear evidence to support delayed initiation or slow advancement of feeds. For surgical treatment of NEC with perforation, there is no clear support of peritoneal drainage versus laparotomy. Similarly, there is a lack of evidence comparing enterostomy versus primary anastomosis after resection at laparotomy. There are little data to determine the length of treatment with antibiotics to prevent recurrence of NEC. Conclusion: Based on available evidence, probiotics are advised to decrease the incidence of NEC, and human milk should be used when possible. The other reviewed questions are clinically relevant, but there is a lack of evidence-based data to support definitive recommendations. These areas of NEC treatment would benefit from future investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2111-2122
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012


  • Antibiotics
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Perforation
  • Systematic review


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