Bilious vomiting in the newborn: 6 years data from a Level III Centre

Atul Malhotra, Anil Lakkundi, Elizabeth Carse

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Background: Bilious vomiting in the newborn is an urgent condition that frequently requires neonatal and paediatric surgical involvement. Investigations involve abdominal X-ray and contrast imaging in most cases. We aimed to describe the prevalence of surgical intervention in this cohort and assess the reliability of contrast imaging in accurate prediction of underlying condition. Methods: A retrospective audit of data from December 2001 to October 2007 was undertaken. Data on newborns admitted to a level III unit with bilious vomiting was extracted. Infants with bilious aspirates but no vomiting were excluded. Results: Sixty-one infants were admitted to the unit during the period with bilious vomiting. Most of them were out born (83.6%). Mean (and standard deviation) gestation was 38.3 weeks (±3.2); weight was 3173.5 grams (±717.6); day of admission was 3.68 days (1-28); and length of stay in the unit was 9.96 days (1-48). There were 52 (85.2%) abnormal X-rays and 21 (34.4%) abnormal contrast studies. Sixteen (26.6%) babies had laparotomies of which 6 were malrotations with volvulus, 2 small bowel obstructions, 2 meconium ileus, 2 Hirschsprung's disease, 2 other findings, while 2 were normal. Positive predictive value (number of accurate predictions of surgical findings) for barium contrast studies was 85.7% in this series. Conclusion: Bile stained vomiting is a surgical emergency and prompt investigation is the key in the management. Contrast studies still form the backbone of such investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-261
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Bile
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Neonate
  • Vomiting

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