Intestinal necrosis in children.

P Martins, J Goulão, R Duarte


The term intestinal necrosis is nothing but a clinical and pathological concept and always includes intestinal ischemia, whether or not occlusive. In a broad sense, necrotizing enterocolitis involves intestinal ischemia associated to an infectious entity. The precipitating factor for necrosis is very often difficult to identify. Necrotizing enterocolitis occurs in 90% of cases in premature neonates and is less frequent amongst other neonates, being rare in older children and adults. The authors present two clinical cases: one 7 year-old with a history of chronic neutropenia and an eleven-year old with severe cognitive impairment, dysmorphic features and behavioural disturbances. They were both admitted to hospital due to an acute abdominal condition and shock. The necrosis implied the resection of a jejunal segment in one of the cases, and a subtotal colonic resection in the other. Despite the surgery and medical support therapy, they both died due to multiple system organ failure--3 hours and fourteen days after surgery, respectively. In the second case, death occurred subsequent to a second surgery for resection of a segment of necrotic ileum. Necropsy showed an extensive necrosis of the remaining intestine in both cases. These two cases evolved as necrotizing enterocolitis of the child. In one of the cases it was possible to establish the exclusion diagnosis of neutropenic enterocolitis. The etiopathogenic mechanisms are reviewed, including thrombotic, obstructive (both extrinsic and endoluminal), inflammatory, non-occlusive ischemic and infectious. The authors stress the general therapeutic measures, the relevance of early surgical intervention and the use of subsidiary diagnostic/therapeutic technologies, such as serum and urine title of intestinal fatty acid binding protein or selective arteriography.

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