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Background and Objective. Noninvasive diagnosis of intestinal necrosis is important in planning surgery in preterm infants with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). We aimed to assess the potential of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the diagnosis of intestinal necrosis. Study Participants and Methods. Abdominal MRI scans were performed in a group of preterm infants with suspected NEC and compared with surgical findings and to MRI results in a group of control infants. In addition, MRI was performed in 2 preterm infants with suspected NEC who did not require surgery. Results. Six infants with a median birth weight of 1220 g (range, 760-1770 g) and median gestational age at birth of 30 weeks (range, 28-34 weeks) were studied at a median postnatal age of 10 days (range, 4-19 days). Four infants had a bubble-like appearance in part of the intestinal wall, intramural gas, and an abnormal fluid level within bowel lumen. At surgery, NEC was found in 5 infants and sigmoid volvulus in 1. The site of the bubble-like appearance corresponded to the site of intestinal necrosis at surgery. Four control infants with a median birth weight of 1500 g (range, 730-2130 g) and a median gestational age of 31 weeks (range, 26-36 weeks) had abdominal MRI at a median postnatal age of 8 days (range, 4-70 days). None of the above findings were seen in any control infant. The bubble-like appearance was not seen in the 2 infants with suspected NEC who did not require surgery. Conclusion. Abdominal MRI allows the noninvasive diagnosis of bowel necrosis. This may aid the timing of surgical intervention in preterm infants with a clinical diagnosis of NEC.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





510 - 514