The distended neonate

H Carty, R J Brereton
Clinical Radiology 1983, 34 (4): 367-80
A prospective study, followed by a retrospective audit, was made of the radiographs and clinical features of 225 consecutive neonates with abdominal distension presenting during a period of 4 years. More than one major cause for the distension was found in a third of cases. Excluding cases of ano-rectal atresia, diagnostic difficulties were encountered in 31% of cases and, occasionally, the diagnosis was revised several times as investigations proceeded. Neuhauser's sign of 'bubbly' meconium is unreliable, being found in cases of meconium ileus, ileal atresia, Hirschsprung's disease and necrotising enterocolitis. Concomitant small-bowel atresia should be suspected in all cases of meconium ileus; intestinal malrotation should be considered in association with duodenal and intestinal atresias. In the absence of an obvious anatomical defect, it is difficult to differentiate between the various causes of functional obstruction by radiological means alone and all such infants should be referred to a specialised centre for intensive investigation and treatment. Very often, the skills of a neonatologist, paediatric surgeon and, especially, an experienced pathologist will be required in addition to those of the radiologist.

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