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BACKGROUND: Current data suggests potential benefit of earlier surgery for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) however this requires accurate prognostication early in the disease course. This study aims to identify and determine the effectiveness of previously reported methods or tests for the identification of surgical NEC. METHODS: Systematic review and meta-analysis with registration on PROSPERO including articles describing a method of identifying surgical NEC. Outcomes of interest were effectiveness and repeatability of index test. RESULTS: Of the 190 full-text articles screened, 90 studies were included which contained 114 methods of identifying surgical NEC in 9546 infants. Of these methods, 44 were a scoring system, 37 a single biomarker, 24 an imaging method, and 9 an invasive method. Sensitivity and specificity ranged from 12.8-100% to 13-100%, respectively. Some methods (9.6%) provided insufficient methods for repeatability within clinical practice or research. Meta-analyses were possible for only 2 methods, the metabolic derangement 7 score and abdominal ultrasound. CONCLUSIONS: A range of methods for identifying surgical NEC have been identified with varying overall performance and uncertainties about reproducibility and superiority of any method. External validation in large multicentre datasets should allow direct comparison of accuracy and prospective study should evaluate impact on clinical outcomes. IMPACT: Earlier identification of need for surgery in necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) has the potential to improve the unfavourable outcomes in this condition. As such, many methods have been developed and reported to allow earlier identification of surgical NEC. This study is the first synthesis of the literature which identifies previously reported methods and the effectiveness of these. Many methods, including scoring systems and biomarkers, appear effective for prognostication in NEC and external validation is now required in multicentre datasets prior to clinical utility.

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Journal article


Pediatr Res

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