Midgut volvulus. An ever-present threat

J H Seashore, R J Touloukian
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 1994, 148 (1): 43-6

OBJECTIVE: To identify risk factors for midgut volvulus (MGV) and to seek clues to early diagnosis of MGV in children with malrotation.

DESIGN: Retrospective patient series.

SETTING: Academic medical center.

PATIENTS: Sixty-eight consecutive children who had a Ladd operation performed between January 1970 and December 1991. Excluded were three patients whose records were unavailable and patients who had a Ladd operation during the course of repair of an abdominal wall defect or congenital diaphragmatic hernia.

RESULTS: Forty of 68 patients had MGV at operation. There was an inverse correlation between age at onset of symptoms and the probability of MGV: 85% (29/34) of patients less than 1 month of age had MGV compared with 43% (10/23) of older children. Patients who had symptoms for less than 4 days were more likely to have MGV (88%; 30/34) than patients who had more chronic symptoms (43%; 10/23). Bilious (green) vomiting was more highly associated with MGV (80%; 35/44) than nonbilious vomiting (38%; 3/8) or pain (50%; 6/12). Roentgenograms of the upper gastrointestinal tract were very accurate for the diagnosis of malrotation but frequently failed to identify MGV (sensitivity, 54%; 13/24). Despite the high proportion of MGV, only three patients had gangrenous bowel. Of these three patients, one died and two have short-gut syndrome.

CONCLUSION: Neonates with a short history of bilious vomiting are most likely to have MGV-complicating malrotation, but older children who have chronic intermittent symptoms are also at risk. Since there is no way to predict which patients will develop catastrophic bowel necrosis, early diagnosis and operation are necessary to prevent mortality and short-gut syndrome.

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