Introduction Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a devastating disease of infancy. Full-thickness bowel wall necrosis may lead to perforation, peritonitis, and death. Timeous clinical diagnosis of impending perforation is imperative. Objective The objective of this study was to determine whether a persistent tachycardia in an infant with proven NEC is indicative of full-thickness bowel wall necrosis and therefore impending perforation. Study Design This study was conducted at the University of Pretoria academic hospitals. Forty-five neonates with proven NEC were divided into a surgical group (32 progressed to full-thickness bowel necrosis) and a nonsurgical group (13 resolved on conservative treatment). Differences in the pulse rate between the groups were analyzed. Results The 24-hour leading average pulse rate data for the surgical group were analyzed over a period of 10 days leading up to surgery and compared with the nonsurgical group. A clear upward trend of the mean pulse rate was observed in the surgical group, 48 hours prior to surgery. This was statistically significant (p < 0.05). Conclusion This study demonstrated that a persistent tachycardia in a neonate with NEC is a predictor of progression to full-thickness bowel wall necrosis. Pulse rate is therefore an important clinical tool when deciding on operative management in NEC.
- necrotizing enterocolitis