Bowel perforation with nonoperative treatment of meconium ileus

S H Ein, B Shandling, B J Reilly, C A Stephens
Journal of Pediatric Surgery 1987, 22 (2): 146-7
Over the last 11 years, 22 neonates were treated with water-soluble contrast enemas to relieve the obstruction of meconium ileus. Fifteen babies had a gestational age of at least 36 weeks, and 16 weighed more than 2,500 g. All presented with clinical findings of a bowel obstruction, confirmed by roentgenograms, and each eventually had high sweat chloride levels. Each neonate had from 1 to 4 water-soluble contrast enemas administered slowly by syringe over 15 to 30 minutes. Eight enemas were successful in relieving the obstruction, four newborns requiring only one enema. Fourteen were unsuccessful, three having more than one enema. Seven of these 14 had intraabdominal pathology that would have required surgery. In five babies the bowel was perforated by the enema, the colon in three, and terminal ileum in two. These perforations were all immediately recognized during the course of the enema and operated on forthwith; a stoma was made in four cases. Only one of these five babies would have required an operation because of a volvulus. There were no fluid or electrolyte disturbances caused by the contrast material, and none of the babies with perforations died. Although this enema technique was successful in one third of cases, and despite the fact that perforations ensued in one quarter of cases, the procedure still seems warranted if the following precautions are taken: establishment of proper temperature, fluid, and electrolyte balance; the radiologist is not rushed, is extremely gentle, willing to repeat the study until no further progress is evident; the surgeon is available for an immediate laparotomy should a perforation occur.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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