Background: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) patients often have neurodevelopmental impairment, but the long-term follow-up data is limited. We determined whether surgical factors were of prognostic value for long-term neurodevelopment in children surviving surgery for NEC (SNEC).
Patients and methods: SNEC patients born between 1996 and 2002 were tested for verbal (VIQ), performance (PIQ) and total (TIQ) intelligence using Wechsler's Intelligence Scale for Children, Third Edition, Dutch Version, and motor skills using the Movement Assessment Battery for Children (M-ABC). Neonatal and surgical data were obtained retrospectively to assess prognostic factors.
Results: 19 patients (12 boys), median age 9.9 years (range 6.2-13.1), gestational age 31.0 weeks (range 25.2-40), birth weight 1 250 g (range 780-3 175) were evaluated. Infants with an enterostomy (n = 14) scored lower on intelligence than children with a primary anastomosis (n = 5): VIQ 85 +/- 12 vs. 101 +/- 15, p = 0.04; PIQ 79 +/- 13 vs. 92 +/- 11, p = 0.06; TIQ 82 +/- 11 vs. 97 +/- 13, p = 0.04. Motor skills were either suspect or clinically impaired in 74%. Clinical classification of results suggest more children in the enterostomy group had a performance rated as clinically impaired compared to the primary anastomosis group, although no statistical difference in M-ABC score was found. There were no differences between primary anastomosis and enterostomy patients with regard to gestational age, birth weight, comorbidities, preoperative Bell stage, residual small and large bowel lengths, inotropic medication, duration of ventilatory support, NICU and hospital stay, and physical exam data on follow-up. However, a selection bias could not be ruled out.
Conclusions: The results suggest that an enterostomy in SNEC patients could be associated with worse neurodevelopmental outcomes by the age of 6-13 years compared to a primary anastomosis, although the severity of illness was comparable between both groups. Further studies are needed to prevent selection bias and to elucidate the impact of abdominal surgical factors on neurodevelopmental outcome and the underlying pathophysiology.